Published: MANCHESTER CONFIDENTIAL, 25th September 2009
"Buy Art Fair: the review. Thalia Allington-Wood visits the Buy Art Fair and swept away by its scale, ambition and moments of real talent"
The hum of conversation echoes around Urbis’ open plan space, glasses chink, tickets are ripped, packets of red circle entry stickers sit impatiently in art dealers pockets, cheque books quiver. This is Manchester’s Buy Art Fair, the biggest commercial art fair outside London. Temporary walls busy with paintings. Corridors pinned with prints. Alcoves and alcoves of artworks. This is a not only a fair, but a bloody maze as well.
A book carefully carved, the middle scooped out, echoes the geographical representations of hills and valleys. The sculpture visually presenting what a book will do to the mind when read: create a landscape.
There is, as with most art fairs, an awful lot of tack. Glamorous Marilyn Monroes, puppy dogs and a glittery Che Guevara. But with tack comes variety, and art to suit all tastes. From misty seascapes to abstract graphics. From water coloured European hill towns to subtly comic illustrations. Need something to hang on your wall? This is the place to get it.
With a bursting bank balance, I would have purchased one of Isabel Rock’s fantastical and inventive illustrations from her Country Gentleman series, showcased by Bearspace. Manipulating period portraits from the Sporting Gazette and Agricultural Journal, Rock creates images that belong in a disturbing Alice in Wonderland adventure. Refined men with monocles suddenly find themselves gallivanting on a long legged bird, their trim hair now flowing freely in the wind. Sirs that shake hands stiffly are beheaded and wildly bearded.
I would also happily have walked home with a piece by Mathew Holding, to be found in Corridor 8’s exhibit: bright graphic montages of modern architecture; simple and stunning. Variety, as it happens, also brings in some truly good pieces of art.
Big names are available if you dig deep enough. In both the fair and your wallet. A wonderful Henry Moore print can be yours for £3000 from Jan Peters. Women reclining their scratchy, voluptuous, etched bodies in open landscapes. Or alternatively one of Jeff Koons well known Balloon Dog’s could stand proudly in your home for a total of four grand, courtesy of Opus Art Gallery.
Walk up to the third floor and you’ll find The Manchester Contemporary, a more spacious and relaxed affair, in which twelve leading UK contemporary galleries take to the floor and provide some real gems. Including a specially commissioned project by Nathanial Mellors, The Tip-ex Block/Play Below Zero. A candid sculpture that is created by the process of deletion and correction. In striving to eliminate, art is created.
Here the gallery Nettie Horn displays some great work from the artist Kim Rugg. Meticulously collaged Guardian newspapers and iconic cartoon magazines, Rugg plays with the trust people place in words and complacency with which the news is accepted. Guardian becomes ‘aadeGhinrTu’, an article paragraph becomes streams of single letters, a front page picture a haze of colour. Journalistic media is amalgamated into bizarre and unreadable formats. Using the same concept, one panel of floral wallpaper sheds its blossom onto the exhibitions floor. The wallpaper, often the purely functionary in an exhibition, is given life.
Both Bureau and Castlefield Gallery also impressed. Mit Senoj’s delicate paintings of figures pieced together with thorny coloured shapes and petals. A book carefully carved, the middle scooped out, echoes the geographical representations of hills and valleys. The sculpture visually presenting what a book will do to the mind when read: create a landscape.
The sheer size and quantity of work on display at Buy Art Fair is overwhelming. You will need to leave a solid afternoon to get through it all, but it will be worth it. You will find beautiful work, tame work, subtle work and thought-provoking work. Amidst the bustle there are gems.
Buy Art Fair is in Urbis until Sunday 27 September.