“Top-tastic—much better than last year” was the verdict of ebullient Hales Gallery director Paul Hedge on London’s Art 2001. Although it was still in progress at the time of going to press, the general consensus has been that the attendance, sales and overall quality of work in Britain’s major contemporary art fair, held in Islington’s Business Design Centre, continues to go from strength to strength. “We’ve sold very well and the collector base is broadening every year” agreed Daniela Gareh of White Cube, who confirmed that the gallery has either sales or reserves on virtually all the work on show, including “Delta”, a new ice-blue ovoid butterfly painting by Damien Hirst at £98 000; a deceptively realistic cast-bronze black-painted sculpture of a bin bag by Gavin Turk at £25,000 and a two new Tracey Emin pieces: a hand-stitched quilt for £50-60,000 and a new £8,500 photograph of the artist storing her cash in an unexpected place, entitled “Good Smile, Great Come”. A beaming Ms Emin was also the undisputed star of “All or Nothing,” Art 2001’s charity auction of idiosyncratic personal effects donated by some of the British art world’s most prestigious figures to raise funds for the exhibition and education programme of the South London Gallery in Peckham. Ms Emin’s appliquéd felt slippers realised the night’s top price of £5,500, a sum greatly assisted by shouts of encouragement and promises of additional items from their creator, who was exuberantly present throughout the bidding. Proud owner of the auction’s top lot was dealer René Gimpel, who was delighted to have his generosity rewarded with a kiss from the artist. Other items of note were Jay Jopling’s Cutler & Gross spectacles, purchased for £450 by Luke Jackson; the rubber Neil Kinnock Mask worn by one of the participants in Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing’s “Confess All” video which realised £650; architect Will Alsop’s model of his award-winning Peckham library plucked from his studio and sold for £550; and one of Maureen Paley’s trademark red lipsticks which, for £270 is now the property of public relations supremo Valerie Shields. Overall the 34 lots made £32,500, a testament to the affection in which the South London Gallery is held throughout the British art world. “I’m delighted with the result” says South London Art gallery director David Thorpe. “It’s an indication of Art 2001’s commitment to supporting and keeping its finger on the pulse of British art.” With art fair newcomers such as Alfred Camp and One in The Other reporting good business in the START young gallery section; and with former START participants such as Hales Gallery, Andrew Mummery and Anthony Wilkinson having made a successful transition into the main body of the fair, it seems that Art 2001’s investment in the up and coming elements of British art is at last reaping dividends.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Better and better'