Preview: START Art Fair at Saatchi Gallery spotlights emerging art scenes
START Art Fair re-dimensions the global art fair to gallery size.
Now in its second edition, START Art Fair takes over London’s Saatchi Gallery to present a fully-fledged art fair programme focusing on emerging artists and art scenes.
Challenging the standard location of the global art fair in a convention centre or a dedicated space, START Art Fair takes the annual event back to the gallery. The second edition of the young London art fair will take place from 10 to 13 September 2015 (preview on 9 September) at Saatchi Gallery in London, covering all three floors of the famed art museum.
The fair is presented by Prudential and organised in a collaboration between Saatchi Gallery and Parallel Contemporary Art, a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting emerging artists across the world, founded by art collectors and patrons David and Serenella Ciclitira in 2008 (and sponsored by Prudential).
START features young galleries from around the world, and shifts the focus on emerging artists and new art scenes. In addition to the usual gallery booths, the fair also introduces a curated projects section, a charity auction held by Christie’s and a talks programme. This year, participating in the fair are 47 international galleries from 25 cities, including Art Twenty One (Lagos), Dastan’s Basement (Tehran), Hafez Gallery (Jeddah), Galeri Chandan (Kuala Lumpur), Osage Gallery (Hong Kong), Gallery SoSo (Seoul) and Triumph Art Space (Beijing).
A fresh look
START’s location is a paradox of our contemporary times. An art fair is primarily a ‘market place’ for collectors to purchase art. The museum is, on the other hand, a non-profit space, where the public goes to appreciate and learn about art. Saatchi Gallery’s art fair bridges these two opposites, giving rise to a new hybrid that perhaps might be less intimidating for some yet more pretentious for others.
Nonetheless, START has already – in its young life – garnered success. Talking to Art Radar, Fair Director Niru Ratnam says:
We had a really good response to the first edition with London’s top collectors attending. The most important lesson we learned was the importance of creating a pleasant environment for them. If you are starting a new fair it really helps if you can do it in something that isn’t a convention centre and somewhere where collectors are happy to spend time. […] The fair takes place in the museum-quality surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery so that really is the best context you could imagine for displaying new work.
Another key strength of the art fair is its dimension: in smaller scale, it presents a good overview of art from the ‘peripheries’, which does not usually find much space or opportunity to participate in the larger art fairs in London such as Frieze. Ratnam says that there is now a real demand from London’s collectors and curators to have access to newer galleries or galleries from emerging markets. Moreover, START also revolutionises the traditional presentation of the art fair and its booths, by making it more similar to an exhibition. Ratnam says:
Most of the artists in the fair are new to London collectors, so the way they are displayed is crucial in attracting their attention. It is also because of this that we keep the fair small – there might be too many new discoveries to take in if there were 100 galleries! […] We want to continue with the beautiful looking presentations that characterised the first edition of the fair – so the booths are laid out in a rather unusual fashion for an art fair that is designed to make it look more like a museum show.
START is innovative not only for its location in a museum, but also for its complete focus on emerging artists and art scenes. Ratnam tells Art Radar:
We’re all about new art scenes so it’s rewarding to have galleries from cities like Seoul, Cape Town and Tehran in the fair. […] There is a natural connection between what the Saatchi Gallery programme of the last few years [has been] (emerging artists from around the world) and what START is doing, so that’s a huge advantage as that’s what collectors expect from a visit to the Saatchi Gallery.
New art from Asia
This year’s edition of the fair introduces a new section, START Projects – a specially curated sector that takes up the whole of the second floor at Saatchi Gallery. This part of the event is really important, according to Ratnam, “to give variety and depth to an art fair”.
“This is Tomorrow” is a series of solo artist presentations selected by Fair Director Ratnam, focusing on artists whose work is “rooted in the contemporary either through the way they work, their subject matter or the context in which they work”. Among the highlights is 2010 Sovereign Art Prize winner, Sri Lankan artist Pala Pothupitye, who is showing with Hempel Galleries from Colombo. His work articulates the history of violence in the island through a mixture of formal academic style and family craft-based visual tradition.
Vietnam-born, London-based Chinese artist Vay Hy, showing with Christine Park Gallery, will present a series of abstract ink paintings whose final forms are determined by the use of salt and acrylic as well as the effects of the everyday English weather as they stand on the balcony outside his studio.
The Projects also present the first UK solo exhibition of Japanese art collective Chim↑Pom, winners of the ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’ at the Prudential Eye Awards 2015. The show includes some of their key pieces, such as KI-AI 100, Black of Death and REAL TIMES. All three performative film works engage with the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In KI-AI 100 (2011), the group with friends stand at Fukushima yelling 100 “KIAI”, a traditional fighting cry used in Japan.
In Black of Death (2007), set partly in the evacuation zone around Fukushima, the collective herds a growing crowd of crows over Tokyo’s landmarks. For REAL TIMES (2011), Chim↑Pom trespass into high-security areas of towns uninhabited due to the nuclear accident, and finally stretch out a white flag onto which they spray a red circle – the sun in the Japanese flag – before transforming it into a radiation symbol.
The Prudential EYE ZONE draws from the 2015 Prudential Singapore Eye exhibition at the ArtsScience Museum in Singapore as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the city-state. The show featured 17 innovative artists selected from over 110 submissions by an international curatorial panel.
Selected artists in this section include some of the most influential and promising from Singapore:
Chia Ming Chien
Chen Sai Hua Kuan
The fourth project is the first solo presentation in London by Japan’s teamLab, an Ultra-technologists group that includes programmers, mathematicians, architects, CG animators, web designers, graphic designers and artists. The collective was shortlisted for ‘Best Emerging Artist Using Digital and Video’ at the Prudential Eye Awards 2015.
teamLab’s interactive digital installation Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year per Hour, Dark (2015) creates a fully immersive environment comprising a mirrored walkway and a large open space. While flowers spring up, blossom, whither and die, the interaction of the viewer will affect their transformation, causing continuous change in the installation.