A Re-START of Contemporary Art
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A Re-START of Contemporary Art

EDITORIAL: HOW START FAIR’S EMERGING ARTISTS MIGHT HELP CHANGE THE CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET

Six years ago, on 1st July 2010, Charles Saatchi announced his intention to gift over 200 works of art and the Saatchi Gallery to the nation, upon his retirement. The gallery would be renamed MOCA London, which stands for Museum of Contemporary Art, London, a polite nod to MOCA LA – the Californian precursor of contemporary art museums, which had been granted a $30M infusion from its founding chairman, Eli Broad.

Mr Saatchi’s decision came on the heels of refusal from Tate Modern’s Sir Nicholas Serota, who had rejected Saatchi’s entire collection donation offer back in 2005. Thus, in the summer of 2010, Tate Modern found itself not only celebrating ten years of existence as London’s highly valued contemporary arts museum, but also witnessing the emerging presence of a major competitor in the heart of Chelsea. Things have gone uphill for the Saatchi Gallery ever since, its exhibitions actively fuelling global art sales and propelling hot new names to the international stage for contemporary arts.

Installation view of Skipwiths Gallery, London (Photo Credit: START Fair / Saatchi Gallery)

Installation view of Skipwiths Gallery, London (Photo Credit: START Fair / Saatchi Gallery)

The global art market has witnessed a bit of a decline lately. However, the issue wasn’t the slump in prices as some reports may have stated – most of the artists mentioned in these publications had seen their prices artificially hyped in the first place, so that bubble was due to burst one way or another. The problem seems to stem from a decrease in supply, rather than the supply or value. Sellers are nervous about the market, particularly after Brexit and its impact on the international markets, and are thus holding back, which reduces sales totals for auctioneers and makes it difficult for the latter to provide more financial guarantees. The absence of financial guarantees will thus set sellers back, and so the vicious circle goes.

Despite the overall sentiment of caution, the contemporary art market still belongs to those with money – as crude as that may sound, the economic growth across certain parts of the globe encourages more of the young elite to engage in art purchases. They have money to burn and a keen eye for new art, so placing bold estimates on some lots is not considered madness. On the contrary, in combination with fairs designed to showcase new and incredibly talented artists, succulent pricing on artworks will ultimately revive the somewhat sluggish art market.

Beso Uznadze, The Fragrant Orchard of My Mother, 2016 (Courtesy of the Artist and Project ArtBeat)

Beso Uznadze, The Fragrant Orchard of My Mother, 2016 (Courtesy of the Artist and Project ArtBeat)

One such fair is the Saatchi Gallery’s START Fair, which is organised every year in collaboration with Parallel Contemporary Art. Though still young, with its inauguration in the autumn of 2014, START has made a habit of creating the best setting for emerging galleries and artists to showcase their artwork in museum-quality spaces. Complete with a very strong marketing and PR strategy, as well as a well-stocked set of bars on all gallery levels, this year’s edition of START Fair brought forth an unspoken but downright inspiring promise – its ensemble of trend-savvy exhibiting galleries and exceptional new artists seem hell-bent on providing superb works of art that will be well worth the price bumps from auctioneers in the near future.

Saatchi’s greatest advantage perhaps lies in its strong network of well-to-do art aficionados and its longstanding relationships with art collectors worldwide – reminding the world that despite government cuts to public funding for the arts, the real muscle lies on the side of the private collectors; many of those are well acquainted with Saatchi’s offers, and are always willing to invest.

Installation view for Future Island (Courtesy of Mehta Bell Projects / START Fair / Saatchi Gallery)

Installation view for Future Island (Courtesy of Mehta Bell Projects / START Fair / Saatchi Gallery)

Chances are that START will succeed where Kensington Olympia’s ART16 (and its previous editions) seem to have failed, even though it was considered the most international of contemporary art fairs, hosting galleries from every continent but ultimately being so mixed that it never really stuck. ART17 has, in fact, been postponed for the moment. On the other hand, START Fair boasted some 70 galleries, highly ambitious not only in size but also in its mission to bring forth names that not even art market insiders have yet heard of.

The works presented by START in mid-September come from different corners of the world and their prices range from hundreds to tens of thousands of British pounds. However, their undeniable prolific quality will soon put most of these pieces in the hands of auctioneers ready to please their quiet audience of eager private collectors. Soon enough, further pricing on artworks exhibited at Saatchi’s START will most likely soar, enough to reinvigorate the art market.

Vasilis Avramidis, Architect, 2016; oil on canvas, 60 x 40cm (Courtesy of the Artist and The Contemporary London)

Vasilis Avramidis, Architect, 2016; oil on canvas, 60 x 40cm (Courtesy of the Artist and The Contemporary London)

The psychology behind this process is relatively simple. It starts with bottom prices; the artist’s presence at Saatchi adds the much needed notoriety that grants sellers the power to increase the value of the works later down the line; and so a work that was worth £25,000 last year will see its value tripled over the course of a few years. It doesn’t come as a surprise that START can truly generate healthy sales, with names like Faig Ahmed and Lai Chiu-Chen on the roster. The added kick is the excellent potential application of these artworks in interior design projects. These days, a beautiful and unique work of art will make the difference between a good interior and a stunning one – and these private collectors pay as much attention to their homes as they do with their curated collections, after all.

On that note, we’re comfortable with drawing attention to several names that we felt show great promise from START’s exhibitors, like Michelangelo Bastiani for example, featured by Aria Art Gallery at START Fair. The gallery itself emerged in Italy, evolving as a strong presence on the Florentine art scene and a frequent contributor to the European art market. Bastiani’s sculptural installations show a certain awareness and artistic identity that transcend into hypnotic visual experiences. For those looking to put something of cinematic flair into their home décor or private gallery, Bastiani’s The Tempest, for example, would make a fine collector’s piece.

Michelangelo Bastiani, The Tempest, 2015; steel, 19” LED screen, glass bottle, 52 x 42 x 55cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Aria Art Gallery)

Michelangelo Bastiani, The Tempest, 2015; steel, 19” LED screen, glass bottle, 52 x 42 x 55cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Aria Art Gallery)

As expected, Korea continues to effortlessly export impressive amounts of incredible talent. Atelier Aki from Seoul has been supporting emerging artists since 2010, and specialises in consulting for corporate collection and art marketing. The gallery’s fearsome instinct allows it to select the very best in their fields of work, with artists like Ji Yong Ho and Kim Nam Pyo on the roster. Ji’s stainless steel and used tire Lion 7 and Kim’s Instant Landscape – Leopard #1, for example, exhibit a mixture of primal and yet stylish artistry that not only resonates with a gallery that has worked with Salvatore Ferragamo and Daum Kakao, but also offers something entirely different and downright exhilarating for any self-respecting art collector.

Kim Nam Pyo, Instant Landscape, Leopard #1, 2016; charcoal on canvas, 145.5 x 112.1cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Atelier Aki)

Kim Nam Pyo, Instant Landscape, Leopard #1, 2016; charcoal on canvas, 145.5 x 112.1cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Atelier Aki)

Ji Yong Ho, Lion 7, 2012; stainless steel, used tire, 500 x 150 x 200cm (Photo Credit: START Fair, Saatchi Gallery)

Ji Yong Ho, Lion 7, 2012; stainless steel, used tire, 500 x 150 x 200cm (Photo Credit: START Fair, Saatchi Gallery)

More and more art aficionados are looking to expand their collections by exhibiting a growing interest in cultures that were previously overlooked. South African art has been leaving stronger footprints each year, particularly since the end of the Apartheid – the country’s rattling tales of racism and intolerance have given birth to powerful visuals. Erdmann Contemporary has made a name for itself as a specialist in advising clients who seek to build comprehensive and quality collections of South African photography and fine art. One of the gallery’s emerging talents is, without a doubt, Eleanor Turvey, whose profound collages of iconic figures like Seretse Khama and Steve Biko, among others, inspire and invite viewers to understand the history behind the canvas.

Eleanor Turvey, The Words of Sir Seretse Khama, 2014; mixed media collage on canvas, 91 x 91cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Erdmann Contemporary)

Eleanor Turvey, The Words of Sir Seretse Khama, 2014; mixed media collage on canvas, 91 x 91cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Erdmann Contemporary)

Switzerland brings its own fair share of talent at events like START. A country whose elite thoroughly enjoys piling up comprehensive contemporary art collections should not be absent anyway. Originating the heart of Montreux, Laurent Marthaler Contemporary is a very young gallery with just three years in the art world. Now holding a successful second showroom in Zurich, Laurent Marthaler Contemporary represents both new and established artists from Switzerland, UK, Germany, Uruguay and Argentina. A show-stopper at START (and most likely in every future gallery or collection) was the ‘La Ballade du Fou’ series of paintings by Charlotte Hopkins Hall, one of the gallery’s ‘prodigies’. Her hyper realistic renditions of luscious hair and textile patterns exude a kind of graceful femininity that is never easy to convey. They’re every designers dream, if in pursuit of a ‘piece de resistance’.

Charlotte Hopkins Hall, La Ballade du Fou II, 2016; acrylic on canvas, 90 x 70cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Laurent Marthaler Contemporary)

Charlotte Hopkins Hall, La Ballade du Fou II, 2016; acrylic on canvas, 90 x 70cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Laurent Marthaler Contemporary)

Taipei’s interior design and contemporary art scene are both extremely well developed and might often throw shade at their American and European counterparts. With international icons like Marcel Wanders and Zaha Hadid having their names inscribed on sumptuous projects, Taipei is a city that represents Taiwan’s bold gaze into the future. Lin & Lin Gallery has established itself for years as a pioneer on both the Taiwanese and Chinese art markets, often enabling meaningful conversations between the ‘de facto’ separate nations’ artists and the rest of the world.

With showrooms in Taipei City, Taiwan and Beijing, China, Lin & Lin is never in short supply of surprising, unconventional and enchanting art. It focuses on establishing the classics of tomorrow, with its infusion of Chinese aesthetics into contemporary art – it’s no wonder the gallery constantly records a very high success rate, with artists like Lai Chiu-Chen and his cartoon poster-like acrylics – which are valued between £7,500 and £15,000.

Lai Chiu-Chen, The Little Bear Who Is Pouring Out All the Stars in the Sky, 2015; acrylic on canvas, 93 x 68cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Lin & Lin Gallery)

Lai Chiu-Chen, The Little Bear Who Is Pouring Out All the Stars in the Sky, 2015; acrylic on canvas, 93 x 68cm (Courtesy of the Artist and Lin & Lin Gallery)

Lenticular artwork has all the hype these days, as more scientific approach to the art medium that successfully offers new experiences to its viewers. The world has already fallen in love with Chris Levine’s lenticular portraits of the Dalai Lama and Kate Moss, to name but a few of the many icons that stood before his camera, so it’s almost natural to see more artists turn to lenticular art. It promises great things, not only visually but also financially – more and more interior designers from the luxury sector look to transplant alternative but equally extraordinary pieces of art into their high end projects, and lenticular artworks seem to meet this demand.

On that note, The Cat Street Gallery from Hong Kong knows how to play the field and adapt to pivotal changes – it was initially founded in 2006 as a means to promote Australian contemporary art in Asia. Today, The Cat Street Gallery holds an impressive palette of international artists and makes its own contributions to the global art scene trends. Its ‘key players’ include The Connor Brothers and their downright ‘wicked’ hand-painted poster art, and Derrick Santini, who takes lenticular art to the next level with fabulous pieces like ‘Teardrop’ and ‘Seven for a Secret’.

Derrick Santini, Teardrop, 2016; lenticular, 119 x 83cm (Courtesy of the Artist and The Cat Street Gallery)

Derrick Santini, Teardrop, 2016; lenticular, 119 x 83cm (Courtesy of the Artist and The Cat Street Gallery)

The secret in running a successful gallery does not dwell in size or funding necessarily, but rather in the curator’s instinct versus the art market’s whims. Identifying the artists that could generate immense figures is no easy task – but some galleries do a damn good job of it, like Montoro 12 / Sapar Contemporary. With offices in Rome and New York, the gallery’s most impressive contribution to START Fair this year came in the form of Faig Ahmed, an Azerbaijani artist who applies quantum physics (at least visually) to handwoven carpets to produce mesmerising works of art. Ahmed could easily be considered the ‘poster-boy’ of innovation in art, if one is to review the entire fair through specific highlights. His Azerbaijani rugs are priced between £16,000 and £25,000 at the moment, but we do expect these figures to grow significantly over the next few years.

Faig Ahmed, Singularity, 2016 (Photo Credit: START Fair, Saatchi Gallery)

Faig Ahmed, Singularity, 2016 (Photo Credit: START Fair, Saatchi Gallery)

After the financial crash of 2008, people started to be a little bit smarter with their money and their investments. This mindset has already been acknowledged during PAD London this year, and it will continue to shape how the art market evolves in the future, especially with the political and economic changes set to take place in the UK. But one thing will never change unless a global catastrophe throws us back into the Middle Ages or earlier – people will always spend money on art.

Lee Yun Hee, Allegory II, 2010; porcelain, 35 x 35 x 60cm (Courtesy of the Artist / START Solo)

Lee Yun Hee, Allegory II, 2010; porcelain, 35 x 35 x 60cm (Courtesy of the Artist / START Solo)

Andres Barrioquino, Tiger, 2016; oil on canvas, 121 x 121cm (Courtesy of the Artist and One East Asia)

Andres Barrioquino, Tiger, 2016; oil on canvas, 121 x 121cm (Courtesy of the Artist and One East Asia)

After the aforementioned crash, however, people have started spending money on art in a more cautious manner. They require clarity, and they demand high quality for their investments.

And that is where START Fair equally succeeds – unlike other similar events, it provides focus in a setting designed to connect sellers with buyers through very intelligent networking; it provides clarity as to what is being shown, where it comes from and what makes it exceptional, without cluttering the potential collector’s visual field; and it showcases a carefully selected and curated selection of galleries and artists – only the best of the best will be considered to exhibit in the Saatchi Gallery.

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