Fairs Market United Kingdom

Not the usual suspects for new London fair

Art13, started by the founders of ArtHK, relies on international clout and a global vision to stand apart from the crowd

Art13 director, Stephanie Dieckvoss

As dealers and collectors prepare for the onslaught of the London art fair season this October, news about a new event in the city—Art13—may fall on already-weary ears. The modern and contemporary art fair, sensibly, is avoiding the Autumnal crush and intends to open 1 to 3 March 2013. “We’ve tested out the timing with international collectors and we think the beginning of the year, when people are not exhausted, will work well,” says the fair’s director Stephanie Dieckvoss. She managed the Frieze art fair for its first three years and was also the director of Hong Kong’s ArtHK (now part of the Art Basel franchise) between 2008 and 2009.

The fair’s main challenge is to stand out in a crowded market and to this end Dieckvoss is promising a “truly global art fair”. Its 100-plus art galleries, representing art from Asia and Africa as well as western Europe and the Americas, will be clustered according to their region, all on an equal footing. Dieckvoss compares this with the international fair habit of there being “one Middle Eastern gallery, for example, that then acquires an outsider ranking”. At this year’s Frieze London (11-14 October) the UK and US galleries, who with few exceptions are from London and New York, make up 45% of the main fair roster. This, she says, is not the fault of the international fairs (“they carry history and are full”), but it gives Art13 the opportunity of a “blank canvas” to better reflect “the dialogue between east and west”. There is no minimum age for galleries, but they need to have an established space and exhibition programme.

The gallery list remains secret until the selection process is finished in November but there are early signs that the clout of Art13’s organisers—Tim Etchells and Sandy Angus who founded ArtHK—is already paying dividends. Nathan Engelbrecht, who runs London’s EB & Flow gallery (opened in 2011), has applied to the fair. He says he is excited at the prospect: “It is difficult for younger galleries to know which fairs to support. We need the business, but we also have to preserve our reputation.”

A global advisory board, announced today, reflects the organisers’ network of major collectors in Asia and the Middle East. Members include Li Bing, who founded the private He Jing Yuan Art Museum in Beijing to house his collection; Thomas Shao, the publisher of Asia’s cultural magazines Leap and Modern Weekly, also a collector; and Ramin Salsali, an Iranian-born entrepreneur who, in 2011, opened the Salsali Private Museum in a converted warehouse in Dubai to display works from private collections, including his own. Also on the board is Frank Cohen, the British DIY magnate whose contemporary collection is housed in the Initial Access foundation near Wolverhampton.

The fair’s edge-of-town venue (Olympia, whose winter antiques fair Dieckvoss also managed for a year in 2010-2011) could prove problematic, although she says “everyone loves the building, and it’s close to Heathrow and a stone’s throw from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Serpentine”. She says that the Design Museum’s plans to move to the nearby Commonwealth Institute in 2014 is helping to strengthen West London’s cultural scene.

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