There was palpable buzz at the launch of the London-based Eye of the Collector fair (12-14 May) yesterday—with visitors seemingly still relishing the prospect of being able to enjoy the upcoming art season in person, rather than virtually.
“May is a great time in London, there is a freshness and hunger present before the freneticism of June, a time when collectors have clear heads and the space to view, learn and acquire”, says Nazy Vassegh, the former chief executive of Masterpiece, who founded the no-stand format fair in 2019.
For its second edition, held at the stylish neo-Gothic revival mansion Two Temple Place, collectors were met with works spanning more than 4,000 years of art history.
Almost half the pieces presented by the 24 participating galleries were created by females. Price points sat around the £2,500 to £500,000 mark, a little lower than those presented at the first edition of the fair, but in line with the greater number of lesser-known and emerging artists on display.
This accessible pricing did not seem to impact the appeal of the works at the higher end of the scale however, with William Scott’s Blue and Black Still Life (1962), presented by Alan Wheatley Art, selling for £320,000 within hours of the fair’s opening. Other early sales included Tadesse Mesfin’s Pillars of Life: Guleet VI (2021), which sold for £30,000 at Addis Fine Art and two works by Cissie Kean, for £9,500 each, brought by Whitford Fine Art.
A great deal of activity came from local buyers. As Rita Alay, sales director at MTArt Agency puts it: "(We are) thrilled to participate as we are very much aligned with Nazy Vassegh’s forward-thinking vision to imagine a jewel where you will find the most incredible artworks all In one place. The crowd was slightly less cosmopolitan, but characterised by serious collectors and first time collectors.”
This year also saw works accompanied with labels, after visitors to the inaugural edition found the reliance on QR codes only one departure from the traditional art fair format too far.
Ten works were commissioned for the event, including pieces by Eleanor Johnson, Anna Perach and Robert Montgomery, while a collection created by Vilebrequin and JRP|editions considers the "creative possibilities of a swimsuit" in a colourful side room.
An online edition of the event will run concurrently, with all works also available via the fair’s partnership with Artsy.