With limited-edition prints as one of the top-ranking mediums in the online art market, The London Original Print Fair caters to both the most established and the more emergent collector with a diverse selection of works that promise to pack a punch.
Now 30 years old and founded by Gordon Cooke, who is also the Deputy Managing Director of The Fine Art Society, this fair brings to London editioned works by a wide range of artists, from recent Royal Academy graduates such as the talented Suzanne Moxhay to more internationally acclaimed luminaries like Yayoi Kusama and Howard Hodgkin.
Under a bright blue evening sky reminiscent of Yves Klein, I walked into the stately site of the Royal Academy of Arts, which provides a most sublime setting for the fair. Founded in 1768 by King George III himself, the Royal Academy—the “RA”—has a history filled with rich educational and creative purpose. For a long time the only art school in the United Kingdom, and long before the YBA takeover on the UK contemporary scene in such ambitious exhibitions as the 1997 “Sensation,” the RA School boasted a roster of more old-school English celebs such as painter J.M.W. Turner and the architect Sir John Soane, among others. The constellation of the Royal Academy of Arts of London is illuminated by names of hundreds of members (“Royal Academicians”), art stars that have changed the game within the course of art history. This is why it is no surprise that turning off of the bustling promenade of Piccadilly into the quiet cloister of Burlington House where the RA is housed inspires a sense of awe. The sheer scale of the central courtyard dwarfs any visitor and hums with the gorgeous spectre of regality, a reminder of days of yore.
At Paragon Press, Sarah Morris’ digital print Apple from Bye Bye Brazil (2014) begs for a bite, Marc Quinn’s etching Untitled 06 from Eye of History (2013) flickers with electricity like a plasma globe, and Chris Ofili’s lithograph A Rave’s Romance from Paradise by Night (2010) seduces in its umber recesses.
At Paupers Press, I dawdle, admiring the delicately colored works of Mai-Thu Perret, Mat Collishaw’s explosive photogravure etching Insecticide 28 (2014), and Andrezj Jackowski’s haunting artist book Time of the Mind (2015).
Gwen Hughes Modern British Art brings the delights of the abstract with an inclusion of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s screenprint Millennium Series (Green) (2000) and a pinch of the surreal with Leonora Carrington’s Crookhey Hall (1979), brilliantly curated with attention to composition in close proximity to Michael Rothenstein’s linocut The Bull (1956).
James Nares draws blood and quickens the heartbeat with the animal magnetism of his painterly screenprinted triptych In Three Words (2012), front and center at Durham Press. Further along in the next room a selection of Pablo Picasso’s etchings from the artist’s series “Suite Vollard” (1930-37) at Frederick Mulder astounds in its definitive nod to the neoclassical style, showing Picasso’s mastery of line work and form outside of the abstract for which he is most often heralded. At Long & Ryle, another Spanish artist of a different generation and approach brings color, curiosity, adventure, and a fantastic set of characters in works such as The Dream (2015), The Prisoner (2015), and The Sin of Paradise (2015).
All in all the weekend is a mesmerizing whirlwind of styles, sizes, presentations, and techniques, an homage to the possibilities of works on paper. As I exit the building and re-enter the courtyard of Burlington House, Frank Stella’s massive sculpture Inflated Star and Wooden Star (2014) looms before me. I can’t help but think what sort of shape this breathtaking work and its surroundings would take if rendered as a print, two stars suspended in the architecture of aristocracy, as dreamt up by King George III so long ago.