The London Original Print Fair is one of its namesake city’s longest-standing art fairs. In its 31st edition, the fair will host over 50 galleries, all specializing in prints, across its home in the Royal Academy of Art. In advance of the fair’s vernissage, we present our eight top picks by art stars—from Louise Bourgeois to Peter Doig—whose paintings are out of reach for many, but whose prints remain delightfully accessible.
While you’re likely familiar with Motherwell’s large, gestural paintings, you might not be aware of the importance of prints to the Abstract Expressionist master’s practice. After falling into a rut in 1965, (sparked by his disappointment in a retrospective of his work at MoMA), the artist took up printmaking and made Automatism B soon after. The work’s title refers to the Surrealist practice of automatism, or the act of spontaneous drawing led by the unconscious, which Motherwell introduced to his Abstract Expressionist cohort in the 1950s. The rapid, expressive gestures that zip across this composition would go on to inform the sense of rhythm and buoyancy that defines Motherwell’s paintings from the ’60s and ’70s.
Since the 1990s, Craig-Martin’s conceptual paintings have featured everyday objects that represent current tastes within popular culture as well as technological progress. Since they were painted, many of the items—cassettes, video-game controls, aviator glasses—have become obsolete or gone out of fashion. Thus the artist tracks our obsessions with objects and devices, one that seems to be growing at an increasingly rapid rate. Other works, like this one, show objects that seem to retain their cultural cachet over time; placed in the context of Craig-Martin’s other work, however, their timelessness is called into question.
This ethereal early work by Dufy reflects the artist’s signature cast of merry boats, nudes, and wide-open seas inspired by his time on the French Riviera. Dufy was a member of the Fauvist movement, and studied the hues and gestures of Matisse and Cézanne closely. Driven by color and line, his work flutters with quick gestures, cartoonish squiggles, and bright colors. His prints, like this one, serve as a link between his paintings and illustrations, the latter which featured in books by the great poets of his time, like Guillaume Apollinaire and Stéphane Mallarmé.
Bourgeois’s groundbreaking practice made waves for its intimate, raw depictions of the female body. Sainte Sebastienne, for its part, comes from a series of self-portraits that explore the artist’s own experience with the criticism her psyche-baring work received. In passionately summarizing the project, the artist explained: “St. Sebastienne is a self portrait. It’s a state of being under attack, of being anxious and afraid. What does a person do when they are under siege? You better understand why you are being attacked. Is it provoked? Is it revenge? Do you fight back, or do you run for cover and retreat into the protection of your own lair? That is the big question.”
Thomas is known for her rhinestone-studded portraits of black women that poignantly restage art-historical masterpieces by the likes of Duchamp and Manet. Here, she riffs on Courbet’s Le Sommeil (1866),
replacing the single central figures (two white women) with two black women in the throes of a tender embrace. They are surrounded by a swirl of patterns, colors, and images that displace the scene from any specific time or context. In this way, Thomas renders her subjects timeless.
Morris distills the symbols embedded in architecture and city planning to create her signature language of stacked and tangled geometric shapes. Works like Jockey Club Brasileiro from Bye Bye Brazil draw from the infrastructure of cities around the world. Here, she maps the urban density, architectural history, and visual dynamism of Rio de Janeiro with De Stijl-style circles and rectangles that crash into each other, interlock, and ultimately become one.
Riley has been playing with viewers’ perception since the 1950s. Her mind-bending abstractions became cornerstones of Op Art and went on to influence Minimalism. While the British artist’s practice began with black-and-white compositions, she started introducing color in the ’60s. (It was these colorful paintings that caught the attention of the Venice Biennale, where she won the International Painting Prize in 1968.) For the “Bagatelle” series, made just last year, Riley returns to black-and-white in compositions where distended triangles undulate as if dancing a slightly off-kilter conga. The effect is one of dizzying motion—Riley’s speciality.
Whether painted or etched, Doig’s enigmatic environments explore the relationship between memory and sense of place. Here, the silhouettes of trees in Big Sur double as an eerie barricade, interrupting a picture-perfect sunset. This dichotomy is typical of Doig’s work, which often features scenes where utopia feels just out of reach.