Event review: London Art Fair 2018

With over 131 exhibitors now participating, the London Art Fair has become a landmark of the city’s cultural calendar – bridging the gap between Frieze in October and Masterpiece in June/July. Bringing together international artists and galleries alongside home-grown talent, it offers a smorgasbord of contemporary work that sprawls out before the eye with charming eccentricity. Art fairs can often be overwhelming in their sheer volume, but LAF 2018 allowed its exhibitors a creative and curatorial flexibility that drew clear distinctions between gallery booths and the newly-launched project spaces.

Upon entering the fair this year, the viewer was greeted by an exquisitely curated series of publicly-owned works selected by some of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists – from Rose Wylie and Mat Collishaw, through to Oscar Murillo. A highlight of the event, these works spoke to artistic lineage and influence, tied together with themes that reflected contemporary cultural dialogue around gender, immigration, and identity. Just beyond this space, was a large-scale display of re-interpreted pulp fiction cover designs by The Connor Brothers – a set of New York-based artist twins raised in the post-hippie religious cult ‘The Family’. These works sizzled with a sultry modernity undercut with a malignant glamour, and offered an introduction to expansive nature of the fair itself.

On the upper levels, familiar faces like Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst, and David Shrigley sat alongside 20th century British masters like Francis Bacon, and mid-career artistic talent such as Mark Beattie and Chloe Lamb. Painting seemed to be more strongly-represented than ever, reflecting its current popularity and the influence of recent landmark exhibitions by the likes of David Hockney at the RA, Rose Wylie at Serpentine, and the Barbican’s recent Basquiat retrospective. In all, this year’s London Art Fair was a dynamic and, importantly, more joyful event than ever before – showcasing the kaleidoscopic extent to which art has always had (and will always have) the ability to digest the contemporary socio-political climate and respond creatively. At times like these, LAF 2018 was a vibrant and vital reminder.