AT specialist fairs, such as next month’s annual Works on Paper Fair, visitors come in with their minds already focused. For dealers, that means a part of the job is already done by the time a potential buyer arrives at the stand.
The question is then: is the shopper after an Old Master print, a 20th century Japanese example or another work on paper altogether?
With more than 35 exhibitors taking part this year, Works on Paper Fair remains at least a dedicated afternoon’s worth of visiting for those wishing to browse and a suitably wide range of prices to attract wallets of varying sizes.
“As it is, the fair has its own unique feel with dealers who handle traditional works showing alongside those selling posters, prints or contemporary work,” says Freya Mitton, third-time exhibitor at the fair. “The quality is always high but, as a result of the dealers being limited to works on paper, the price tags are not as high as substantial oils would be.”
British art specialists appear in strength. Among them are Harry Moore-Gwyn, Sarah Colegrave and Karen Taylor, as well as Newman Fine Art, specialising in British 18th- 20th century watercolours, Michael Parkin Fine Art, with Modern British art, and Camburn Fine Art focusing on the paintings of British artist Alan Halliday.
Another of the fair’s strong areas is Japanese prints, provided by specialists such as Hanga Ten, which concentrates on contemporary works, Japanese Print Shop, which also sells Russian paintings, and Kamal Bakhshi, with a focus on modern Asian art.
Festival of talks
Running from February 9-12 at the Royal Geographical Society’s Lowther Lodge, the fair includes a series of talks which this year organisers have dubbed a “mini arts festival” to encourage academic discussion and analysis among the specialist viewers attending the commercial event.
Speakers such as critic Andrew Graham-Dixon, Breese Little codirector Henry Little and Paul Nash biographer David Boyd Haycock will present talks throughout the fair at the RGS’s Ondaatje Theatre. Topics include seminal exhibitions of the past, collecting and life as an artist, and most talks are accessible with a fair ticket.
Another annual feature is a loan exhibition, which this year is a selection of works from Eton College Collections co-curated by exhibitors Guy Peppiatt and Charles Nugent in association with the collection’s keeper Philippa Martin.
“These are watercolours you don’t see coming up for sale,” Peppiatt says of the exhibition, which includes works by artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner.
“There are a lot of museum-quality watercolours, which casual visitors to the fair might not see otherwise.”
These works, Peppiatt added, are enough to get even those less savvy with the works-on-paper scene through the door. And with the warren-like set up of the stands, which encourages up-close, personal examination of the works, and a selection that is broad but not overwhelming, the fair is apt to retain its place this year as a favourite for old-hands and first-comers.
“If you are looking for a picture but are not sure whether you would prefer something old school or perhaps branch out and buy an abstract work,” adds Mitton, “then this is the fair for you.”