START ends on a high
The first edition of START Art Fair Presented by Prudential ended on a high note today after receiving universal praise for its fresh approach. This was reflected in strong sales and attendance of significant international collectors.
The preview day saw 2,200 VIP guests through the doors in just 5 hours, with total visitors over the 5 days exceeding 11,000. Founder of the fair and Executive Director of the Global Eye Programme, David Ciclitira said
“This is our sixth collaboration with Saatchi Gallery, including the blockbuster Korean Eye show, and I have never seen it so busy”
With 46 exhibitors, the focussed approach of the fair allowed for more attention on each exhibitor. Unique social media initiatives involving artist created content, connected the fair virtually to audiences who couldn’t attend in person; Igsaan Martin at South African gallery BRUNDYN+ said:
“We were delighted with how well our young artists’ works have been received by new audiences. Collector contacts of ours who aren’t at the fair have seen our artists work on social media and have been in touch to ask about prices – this is the first time we have ever had this experience at a fair!”
As well as notable collectors, attendees included the Italian Ambassador, Vietnamese Ambassador, Korean Ambassador and the Singapore High Commissioner. Patrons of MOMA NY and owners of significant private art collections, including Frank Cohen and Anita Zabludowicz, were also amongst the VIPs at the fair.
Delivering its promise as a fair in which to discover and be discovered, many gallerists found new collectors for their artists, both from the UK and overseas. Galerie Absinthe (Korea) said:
“The five artists we have exhibited are not known at all in the European market and we weren’t sure how well they’d sell to European collectors. So we were pleasantly surprised that from the very first day we have sold so well. There are so many art fairs all around the world, and the reason we decided to participate in START in London was to make new connections with collectors, curators, journalists and artists from all over the world.”
Studio Pivot, the youngest gallery at the fair sold works at both ends of their price range (£500-£11,000) to new collectors who had come from outside the UK. Saying: “We were so happy from the beginning; at first it was “Wow” and now it is “Wow, wow, wow! Just perfect!”
Visitors remarked on the quality of the galleries and appreciated being able to make new discoveries. Also the style and setting of the fair as well as the high quality production drew comparisons to museum exhibitions.
Maya El Khalil, director of Athr Gallery, Saudi Arabia said:
“We’ve met new, serious collectors so we are thrilled to be at the fair. START has a totally different atmosphere to any other fair – it feels more like an exhibition”
Fair Director, Niru Ratnam said:
"Visitors seem to have been struck by the fact that the fair has lived up to its promise as truly a place to discover and be discovered. Collectors have commented to me on the extremely high standard of work being exhibited by the young galleries and artists, many of whom they have been introduced to for the first time. There’s been a fantastic atmosphere here throughout the preview and I have to thank the galleries for their positive feedback and also for bringing their artists to attend in person, which has really added to the whole experience.”
Curatorial initiatives included The Prudential Eye Zone, which offered for sale, highlighted works from the Eye Programme of exhibitions. It also proved popular with collectors with a bidding war taking place over one work by Korean artist Kang Hyung Koo which was priced at $20,000. A participatory performance at Fehily Contemporary Art (Australia) by Gosia Wlordarczak saw the artist creating drawings of visitors throughout the week, layering the collected images and creating one large semi abstract work on linen.
The dates of next year’s fair have been announced as Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 June, once again taking advantage of falling just after Art Basel and at the same time as Masterpiece and the sales at major London auction houses.
What The Press Say
‘In one painting by the Burmese artist Kaung Su, Mickey Mouse’s hand points to a piece of charred wood – a bold yet playful commentary not only on deforestation issues in Myanmar... Violent One (second picture) is just one of the many dynamic works showing at the inaugural Start Art Fair.’
FT How to Spend It, 25 June
’One can only welcome the initiative [START]…Exhibitors have been given generous spaces, which makes for a very pleasing meandering. After Basel – and Masterpiece – the small number of galleries (46) feels particularly refreshing.’
Coline Milliard, Artnet.com, 27 June
‘In the over saturated world of international Art-fairs one could quite imagine that launching a new event in London would be a dangerous gamble. However, START London's latest contemporary art fair has bucked the trend and come up trumps’
Artlyst, 26 June
‘Startartfair, at Saatchi Gallery. Love these paintings by Tom Gidley with Paradise Row gallery.’
Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper 25 June