Still a small and highly selective fair, but with increased online visibility and opportunities for wider engagement.
26th February – 2nd March 2021
THE 17TH ANNUAL edition of Collect, London’s International Art Fair for Contemporary Craft and Design, will open to the general public on 26th February. In cyberspace. “We had to make a really difficult decision in September and switch all our energies online,” explains the Fair’s director Isobel Dennis. “It’s not ideal but we have to embrace it and the lovely thing about this format is that it’s allowed us to be really inclusive.”
Collect remains small and highly selective, but Dennis widened the net this year recognising that the reduced costs of taking part and increased visibility offered by the fair’s partnership with on-line art platform Artsy.net, was the perfect opportunity for galleries to “dip their toes” in the Collect waters. And it worked. Out of the 32 galleries showing at this edition, seven are making their fair debut. Those coming from overseas include New York’s prestigious J. Lohmann Gallery, Oslo’s interdisciplinary RAM Galleri and Bangkok-based conceptual jewellery gallery ATTA ‘N’ ATTA Art Space.
New arrivals from the UK include two London-based galleries specialising in collectible objects. MADEINBRITALY will be showcasing a collection of new work by visual artist Andrea Salvatori that explores – with utterly compelling results – what happens when the 3D printing process is disrupted, while the newly established House on Mars will, says owner Vanja Bazdulj, present “a harmonious collection of pieces based on the human need for comfort and self-expression” – pieces such as award-winning artist/jeweller Zoe Robertson’s delightfully ludic hand-held ‘Sensory Playground Objects’ made from recycled rubber and plastic.
The heritage of Collect has always been aligned with the exploration of materials, and despite the immateriality of the digital format, this year’s edition is no exception. Glass and ceramic are both exquisitely and inventively represented, and several artists, such as Phoebe Cummings and Marcin Rusak, both at Sarah Myerscough, have used fragile or perishable materials to investigate ideas of transience and the ephemeral.
But this year’s standout medium is fibre. Highlights include several pieces from Collect first-timer Dovecot tapestry studio; a curiously organic Teflon mesh and gold-leaf wall piece by Korean artist Yeonsoon Chang at Seoul’s LVS & LVS Craft and Julia Hall’s embroidered oil painting ‘Elizabeth’, showing with Alveston Fine Arts. “Textiles are getting the edge this year because they work so well on screen,” explains Dennis “You can understand the texture.”
Another benefit of the on-line format is its accessibility. Not only will Collect’s audience of international gallerists, curators, collectors and dreamers be able to view and buy work from the comfort of their homes, they will also be able to tune in to an extensive Talks Programme featuring such luminaries of the contemporary craft world as artist/author Edmund de Waal and ceramist Magdalene Odundo, and access recorded highlights from ‘Collect Selects’. Normally VIP-only, these sessions bring together curators, journalists and art historians to discuss a selection of objects from the fair and offer a fresh perspective on the work being shown. “Collect is a cultural moment in the calendar,” Dennis says. “We were determined to maintain it, not only for the economy of the sector, but also to keep everyone going.”
The Design Edit has been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of Collect 2021. The work is beautiful and spirit-lifting. Here are five pieces we fell in love with.
The Design Edit’s top picks:
Garry Fabian Miller with Dovecot Studios, ‘As the White Light Fuses the Green Air, Midwinter’ 2020
British fine art photographer Garry Fabian Miller explores the creative possibilities of camera-less image making. He has worked with Dovecot, the UK’s leading tapestry studio, since 2014, creating a series of hearth rugs, a tapestry and most recently, a large scale, hand tufted wool rug titled ‘As the White Light Fuses the Green Air, Midwinter.’ “This rug is extremely tactile and seems to emit white light from the centre, drawing the viewer in,” says Rachel Ackland, co-founder of Oxford Ceramics Gallery, which is showing the piece at Collect. “It has amazing presence.”
Hand-tufted wool. Showing with Oxford Ceramics. £POA
Barbara Nanning, ‘Verre églomisé no.7’, 2020
“I see myself as a material bound artist, inventing and developing unusual methods and techniques with new surface textures,” says Dutch sculptor, ceramicist and glass artist Barbara Nanning. ‘Verre églomisé no.7’, encapsulates her approach perfectly. Formed of several coloured glass layers, the interior gilding enriches its sensual inner shape, while the sandblasted exterior absorbs the light, creating a delicate skin that softens the vessel’s outline and accentuates its contours. “This is a work you can enter visually,” says the gallery’s owner Joern Lohmann. “The glass layers perfectly match the blown shape and beautifully depict eternal, solidified movement.”
Clear glass, white opal glass, blue clear glass, 23.5 Karat orange-gold. Showing with J. Lohmann Gallery. $9,500
Rudee Tancharoen, ‘Untitled Bell’, 2018
Thai artist Rudee Tancharoen has been making beautiful pieces of wearable art since 2007. Her main concern is not to decorate the body, but to use the materials and techniques she employs to tell stories. ‘Untitled Bell’ is part of a series of bronze works made using an ancient, and fast-disappearing, lost wax casting technique from Baan Pa-Ao in Northeast Thailand. The moulds are made from the materials at hand – clay from the rice fields, paddy husk, termite hill and cow dung – giving them a rough texture which, Tancharoen explains, “reveals the truthfulness of the material and process when imprinted on the bronze surface.”
Bronze. Showing with Atta n Atta. £950
Nico Conti, ‘Ornamental Ferrum’
Recent RCA graduate Nico Conti makes precious and highly decorative porcelain art works using a combination of both traditional and digital processes. ‘Ornamental Ferrum’ is one of his most ambitious pieces to date. Inspired by lace and filigree from his homeland of Malta, it is the result of a long and challenging making process involving designing a computer programme, 20 hours of babysitting the 3D printer and then drying and firing in the kiln. “Nico’s work is beautiful, intriguing and different,” says Fergus Downey of London gallery Alveston Fine Art. “His distinct skill set enables him to create highly personal and technically ambitious ceramic sculpture, leading to the question, ‘How is this possible?’”
Porcelain. Showing with Alveston Fine Art. £1,600
Helen O’Shea, ‘Filament 2020’
Textile artist Helen O’Shea’s work investigates the potential to re-use waste plastics within a contemporary art setting and, inspired by the volumes of plastic in the oceans, explores the idea of inorganic plastics supporting organic life. For this piece, O’Shea has painstakingly moulded and shaped high-density polyethylene plastic bottles using threads and pins in a process the gallery’s co-founder Peter Ting describes as “more sculpting than embroidery.” “The usual perception is that hours and hours of hand skill should be applied to a ‘precious’ material,” he says, “but I love Helen’s intense focus to create something that requires lots of skill and creativity on a ‘disposable’ surface.”
Re-used HDPE plastic, pins. Showing with Ting Ying Gallery. £1,800
The Design Edit is proud to present our TDE TV film on Eleanor Lakelin, who is showing with Sarah Myerscough Gallery at Collect.