Polly Morgan, David Blandy and international talent in Art13 at London Olympia

By Culture24 Reporter | 01 March 2013

Fair review: Art13, Olympia Grand Hall, London, until March 3 2013

A photo of a woman walking through a giant hollow cylinder made out of paper
© Theo Cohen Photos
Created by the organisers of Frieze, the inaugural Art13 is a geographically and artistically exotic fair. The broad line of division is three pronged, although there’s a certain level of synergy between the parties in Young Galleries – organisations who’ve been established for less than six years – and London First, where, by definition, the galleries making their first major representations in the capital are all new or newish.

It’s perhaps most notable for the distance some of the galleries have travelled: Gajah Gallery, from Singapore, lays on Handiwirman Saputra’s strange, abstract figures in dotted lines upon bright blue turquoise, and 16th Line, from Russia, is a stable of dark black lines, sculptures of devilish bulldogs and soot-black, murky acrylics.

There’s a curious blur of discovery and familiarity in seeing, say, Polly Morgan’s stately, grim taxidermy (represented by an Italian gallery) within proximity of a luminous pink flower, by Choi Jeong-Hwa, which is made of balloons and alternates between expanding and deflating every few seconds.

Morgan has wrapped a prone fox in octopus tentacles nibbled by sparrows. Naturally, it's placed next to a sculpture consisting of a Nirvana t-shirt erected to resemble a ghost.

Among the instantly recognisable, Robin Katz has Martin Parr’s cherubic vision of children devouring ice creams in New Brighton, while the October Gallery has its usual spin on mysticism and the occult through Burroughs’ View Rising Like A Kansas Sunflower and a voodoo spook by Gerald Quenum, made of planks of wood with a plastic doll’s head, sticks for arms and shells adorning its oak-cast torso.

Lazarides have gone more domestic, incorporating a set design of a lounge strewn with pizza, fag ends, empty takeaway boxes, beer bottles, decaying speakers and other slacker debris to which, for £75, they could add some shattered crockery from Keaton Henson, whose potentially invaluable Plate for Throwing in Arguments can be seen attached to a wall.

The gems – or perhaps the jokers in the pack – are the new works commissioned for the fair, stacked, spiralled and balanced around the place.

Most of them are eye-catching and large-scale enough to punctuate a wander: near the entrance, Lithuanian artist Zilvinas Kempinas’ Fountain is a billowing oasis made from black magnetic tape, a circle of cassette tape hair blowing in a silent breeze, and Zena El Khalil, from Lebanon, has made an enormous light sculpture rotating and reflecting the word Allah in Arabic – his search, he says, is for a God which transcends boundaries.

Slap bang in the middle stands a 12-metre long hollow cylinder made of bamboo, cotton and 8,000 sheets of rice paper. Not to be outdone by the neighbouring champagne bar, Zhe Jinshie’s Boat, which is ostensibly a physical manifestation of time, uses a material widespread in ancient Chinese literature and art.

On the fringes, though, the Not-For-Profit section steals the imagination through subtler means. The Whitechapel has a sterling line-up of Gerald Byrne’s shut-eyed sitters, sartorial surrealism from John Baldessari, Susan Hiller’s psychedelic homage to Marcel Duchamp and Gillian Waring’s macabre cut-off hand, still bearing nail paint.

Film strips of John Lennon, Miles Davis, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali make up Jonas Mekas’ Holy Fools for the Serpentine. Dundee Contemporary Arts are presenting a mini-showcase of their current programme, reporting sales, plenty of encouragement and a fair deal of investment and hard graft in their journey south.

Jane and Louise Wilson’s portrait, False Positive, False Negative, is a particular highlight, giving forensic exposure to a pair of faces which respond to the gaze of the viewer, revealing CCTV evidence beneath the surface.

Closer to the Olympia, Soho’s Photographers’ Gallery details Julie Cockburn’s experiments with photos, making cut-and-stuck, often beautifully intricate amendments to found pictures.

In film, the most riveting work must be David Blandy’s continuing quest for enlightenment, seemingly accomplishable only through manga and heavy beats at Zabludowicz.

Blandy sits on the bridge by Camden Lock in a red samurai outfit. He imagines his warrior guru in his head, speaking over a hip-hop backing, then strolls barefoot past a bus-stop, clutching his trusty stick. If only life on the streets surrounding the Olympia was always this politely heroic.

  • Open 11am-6pm (5pm Sunday). Tickets £8-£16 (free for under-16s). Book online. Follow the fair on Twitter @Art13London.

More pictures:

A photo of people milling about under a giant colourful artwork inside an art fair
© Ashley Bingham
An overhead photo of an art fair made up of white-walled blocks with people milling
© Ashley Bingham
A photo of an art fair made up of white cylinders within a huge circular building
© Theo Cohen Photos
A photo of a large hollow cylinder made out of paper inside a circular gallery
© Theo Cohen Photos
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