Art fairs

Private museums band together at London's Art15 fair

International collectors plan to share exhibitions and co-commission works of art

Seven collectors from Shanghai, Dubai, Istanbul, Italy and Mexico, among others, established a formal association of international private museums at the Art15 fair in London yesterday, 20 May. A wider group of collectors and collecting couples has held a summit at the fair for the past three years; this year 23 took part. The founding members of the association, including Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Budi Tek, Wang Wei and Ramin Salsali plan to share exhibitions, exchange residency programmes, provide education and even co-commission works of art.

Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, who has run a contemporary art foundation in Turin for the past 20 years, proposes the association co-commissions digital or video works because they are easy to share. “It’s a good way to collect and the transportation is cheap, plus it gives artists the opportunity to make works,” she says.

The collectors also aim to team up with public institutions in the West, says Philip Dodd, the chairman of the London-based agency Made In China, who has organised the association. Last week the Giacometti Foundation and the Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek announced that they will stage the biggest exhibition yet of Giacometti’s work, from March next year in Tek’s Yuz Museum in Shanghai.

The private museum association was formed at the third edition of Art15 (until 23 May), which has undergone some other major changes this year. Kate Bryan took over as director of the fair in November and has already introduced a number of initiatives, including Freedom Audit, an exhibition organised by Kathleen Soriano, the former director of exhibitions at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. The show was conceived in response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris and includes artists from Tibet and Korea. Bryan has also launched the New 100 Club, gathering together 100 art collectors under the age of 40.

The number of galleries has come down from 180 last year to 134 in a bid “to maintain quality”, Bryan says, adding that 30% of booths are solo presentations. In total, 42 countries are represented—the fair markets itself as "truly global" and likes to champion emerging artists. However, this means the quality of art on show can be hit and miss, but the bar has been raised this year.  

Among the highlights is a selection of works by M.F. Husain on the stand of London’s Grosvenor Gallery, which was enticed to participate for the first time this year thanks to the change in date from February to May. Works on paper start at £600 (a snip for the coveted Indian Modernist), rising to more than £100,000 for the larger canvases.

The publicly-funded Ikon Gallery from Birmingham is selling works to raise money for its future programme, including a sparkling copper sulphate canvas by Roger Hiorns for £20,000—a more commercial version of Seizure, the British artist’s hit installation that first opened in an abandoned council flat in Peckham, south London, in 2008 before moving to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2013.

If most galleries at the fair do business at prices between £10,000 and £50,000, one of the most expensive works on offer is by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at this year’s Venice Biennale. His shimmering wall hanging is on show with London’s October Gallery, priced at more than $1m.

Meanwhile, the prize for best newcomer must go to the Chinese artist Su Dong Ping (b. 1958), who has not had an exhibition for 20 years, but was discovered by the Hong Kong-born dealer Pearl Lam last year. Su says he kept his painting a secret from most of his family because his abstract work was not appreciated in China. Now that is all changing: his thick oil paintings are priced from $60,000 on Pearl Lam’s stand.