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20/21 British Art Fair

20/21 British Art Fair

Art Fair
20/21 at 25!
  The 20/21 BRITISH ART FAIR is 25 years’ old this year and is still the only fair to specialise exclusively in modern and contemporary British art. It was founded on the premise that Modern British art (with the exceptions of Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Ben Nicholson) was undervalued and needed a flagship. At that time the market for international modern art was booming and British art was gathering momentum in its slipstream. The age-old inferiority complex about the superiority of French art and, more recently, American art, was disappearing and the art schools were turning out the artists who became the YBA movement, headed by Damien Hirst and his contemporaries.

Ivan HitchensThe fair, known until 2000 as The 20th Century British Art Fair, was created by Gay Hutson and Angela (Bunny) Wynn with the help of a small group of dealers and for the first three years it was held at The Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch. The fair's focus was, and always has been, historical and modernist, with a taste of the contemporary and works not considered to be ‘in the spirit of the 20th century were vetted off. By 1991 it had moved to the prestigious galleries of the Royal College of Art, rightly known as the spiritual home of British art as it boasts such internationally recognised alumni such as Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield, Tony Cragg, Chris Ofili, and Tracey Emin – most of whose work can usually been found at each fair.

Having survived the depths of the recession in the early 90s, business has thrived but few could have predicted the enormous rise of interest there has been in art since then, both in the UK and globally. Attitudes to buying art have also changed dramatically; twenty five years ago it was more the domain of the elite, but, with the advent of the YBAs and the phenomenal success of Tate Modern, art now appeals to a very broad audience and the 20/21 British Art Fair has undoubtedly played its part in this development.

Back to the dealers ...

Keith VaughanThe dealers are the backbone of the art trade. Look into the archives of some of the oldest established exhibiting galleries – such as Agnews, Austin/Desmond, Beaux Arts, Jonathan Clark, Crane Kalman, Gimpel Fils or Redfern - and you will find evidence of their early support for many of today’s most sought after names. The importance of the dealer’s role is sometimes overlooked, but their years of nurture and support through good times and bad, building up artists’ careers by mounting and curating exhibitions, organising print editions, catalogues and publications should not be overlooked.

Lizzie RichesThe fair has in all some 55 dealers exhibiting, almost a quarter of whom were at the first fair back in 1988 (although some have dipped in and out). The wealth and depth of knowledge which these specialists bring to the fair is the foundation of its strong following and excellent reputation.
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