The annual Collect art fair (2-6th February) organised by the Craft Council did not take place last year (according to their website, they had to take the time off to regroup and revamp), and so I was eager to see the new changes at the Saatchi Gallery.
This reputable craft fair showcased works by established and emerging contemporary artists and craftsmen who are represented by 35 leading art and craft galleries from around the world. Works included ceramics, glass, jewellery, wood, metal and textiles; and as usual, there were many stunning and intricately crafted pieces at the fair.
This year, aside from the exhibitions, there was an interesting programme of daily talks and activities; and a fund-raising Benefit Auction featuring works by top artists and makers.
Top left: Vessels on stilts by Adi Toch; Top right: Malcolm Appleby; 2nd row right: Tulipere 1 by Coilin O Dubhghaill; Bottom left: Gouttes de lune by Hitomi Uchikura; Bamboo series by Chien Wei Chang
On the ground floor, I was particularly drawn to an unconventional piece of work: "Laure Prouvost (see above) at Cass Sculpture Foundation. Prouvost’s dining table is drawn from her project Wantee, which she won the Turner Prize for in 2013. Based on two fictional grandparents, she has created a tale out of ceramic tiles by turning symbols like eyeballs and lips into domestic functional objects. The ceramic eyeballs are in fact salt and pepper shakers and the ceramic mounds suggestive of breasts can be used as butter dishes (these may satisfy many men's secret fantasies!). I like the playful concept and the organic style and forms, which are distinctively different from the more polished and refined works at the fair.by Turner Prize winner
Top left: Broke by Sue Paraskeva; Top right: Lime tress by Marc Ricourt; 2nd row: Construct by Irina Razumovskaya 3rd row left: Halima Cassell; 3rd row right: Jun matsumura; 4th row left: Katie Spragg; 4th row right: Moonlight by Fuku Fukumoto
Top: Cabinets for Small Curiosities by David Gates and Helen Carnac; 2nd row left: Enignum Shelf XXVII by Joseph Walsh; 2nd row right: Jongjin Park; 3rd row left: Michel Gouèry; 3rd row right: Misnad by Aljoud Lootah; Bottom left: Constructed feast by Tinkah; Bottom right: Sarood by Sheikha Hind Majid
At the Gendras Reginer Gallery, I was captivated by the quirky and fantastic terracotta alien-like sculptures by French sculptor, Michel Gouèry. The works stood out because they evoked our imaginations, and they are also beautifully made.
It was also interesting to see The Irthi Contemporary Craft Council from the UAE exhibiting at the fair for the first time. The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is an initiative established as part of the NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, under the patronage of the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of NAMA. The three pieces shown at the fair (see above) showcased the merge of traditional Arabic crafts with new technologies by female designer makers from the UAE today.
Top: Diamond dots IV by Marian Bijlenga; 2nd row left: Queen's chair by Isabel Berglund; 2nd row middle: Rikke Ruhwald; 2nd row right & 3rd row: Shibori textiles by Shihoko Fukumoto; Bottom left: Mika Kenmoku; Bottom right: Mikiko Minewaki
Grayson Perry's Essex House tapestries: Julie Cope's Grand Tour
One of the hightlights of the fair was a room dedicated to Craft Council's latest acquisitions: two of Grayson Perry's Essex House tapestries. They depict the story of a fictional Essex woman, Julie Cope, accompanied by a long, tongue-in-cheek poem, which provides a social history of Essex since the Second World War.
Top: Collect Open exhibition – 2nd & 3rd row left: Paper craft by Domitilla Biondi; 2nd row right: White by Soojin Kang; 3rd row right: Tending the fires by Claire Curneen; 4th row: Vessels by Tanya Gomez; 5th row left: Ruth Glasheen; 5th row right: Wooseon Cheon; Bottom: Crystalline Constellation by Shelley James
On the top floor, Collect Open showcased 14 up-and-coming designer makers from around the world selected by a panel headed by Faye Toogood. And there was Showtime, an exhibit celebrating the history of the Craft Council, which included many wonderful posters from its archive and objects from its previous exhibitions.
Showtime exhibition – Ring change spectrum by Ann sutton; Poster for Eric Ravilious' exhibition; Poster designed by David King
The popularity of the fair demonstrates that craft is being more recognised than before, however, it is still nowhere near as prominent as other art forms such as paintings, sculptures and photography – which is a real shame. I hope that we will see more positive changes in the future because craft is an important art form that needs to be celebrated and appreciated by the masses and not just an elite group of buyers/insiders.