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Zoo Art Fair - is it what is was

commentart.com, 21.Oct.08
Author Imogen Welch

Zoo Art Fair

I have been to all five Zoo Art Fairs, and there have been many changes over the years. The original event showcased very young London galleries, art organisations and publications. It enabled the local and international art world to see what was happening within small, inaccessible locations in the capital.

The event got slightly larger in 2005 with the welcome inclusion of a few out of London galleries but 2006 saw a large increase in numbers, with the fair now occupying a large marquee in the zoo grounds, as it had outgrown the available buildings. This was the year that international galleries were first invited and fourteen came, however the remaining forty two were still from the UK. Now the Zoo Art Fair is well established in the Burlington Gardens location but there are discontented galleries in London who find they can’t get in to the fair.

This is hardly surprising as in 2004 there were 26 London exhibitors but this year (despite it’s growth) there are only 18 (6 of those were on the list for the original fair!) The really young exciting organisations have trouble getting accepted and raising the ever increasing fees. Maybe if the organisers had been less embedded into the scene then the three year rule might have stayed, however many exhibitors would have been too mature to come back so the age limit has now crept up to six years.

Now it is of course interesting to see far flung galleries like Rodeo from Istanbul and Galleria Leme from São Paulo, but when the Brazilian gallery is showing a piece by Goldsmith graduate Paul Hoskins, whose Vyner St gallery Fred is not in the show, I do wonder what is the point to this international merry-go-round! There are art fairs all over the world and the exhibitor lists can look very similar, so why has this excellent original formula spawned a baby Frieze?

Zoo Art Fair’s success has lead to a couple of prizes, given to exhibiting artists, the most generous being the £10 000 Champagne Perrier-Jouët Prize for best artist at Zoo Art Fair. This year’s winner is the American Scoli Acosta whose work is shown by Galerie Laurent Godin of Paris. Acosta, who works in a large variety of media, often deals with themes that are ecologically based whether he is referencing renewable energy with solar panels or recycling materials into his finished pieces. As well as the money, there is the opportunity to exhibit at next year’s show, so this year there is a room dedicated to new work made by the 2007 winner, Scottish artist Karla Black whose exciting experimental work is made of ordinary stuff like polythene, cotton wool and face powder.

The artists on show in the fair range from this year’s RCA sculpture graduate Robert Dowling (showing with London galley Alexandre Pollazzon) to Eric Bainbridge (showing with Workplace Gallery of Gateshead) who left the same masters course in 1981 and is now a Professor of Fine Art at the University of Sunderland. Interestingly while Dowling is showing work made since this summer’s degree show (a huge complex puzzle of geometric shapes that forms a large purple rectangle), Bainbridge’s fun ‘ocelot fur fabric’ covered piece was made in 1985!

Among the works that particularly caught my eye, Riflemaker of London are showing a large wax ‘painting’ by Jose Maria Cano From his series “Wall St One Hundred”. The piece is hugely magnified cutting from the New York paper featuring an image of Barack Obama. Close by and attracting quite a crowd is a piece by David Ellis (represented by Roebling Hall of New York) in a video described as Motion painting, the artist is seen in a time lapse format creating his huge works. This video work is much more documentary that actual artwork perhaps because he finds the need to pack far too much in rather than keeping it to a more coherent content.

Paradise Row of London deserve a mention for their stand, instead of the normal art fair hang they created a black walled, evolving installation based on The Waste Land and some of the work was specially made to this theme by their artists. I enjoyed the humour in Kristoffer Akselbo’s piece (showing with Brown of London). It is titled LHOOQ from the famous Duchamp, and consists of a toaster and a pile of toast with the famous moustachioed Mona Lisa on each slice!

Finally the winner of the John Jones ‘Art on Paper Acquisition and Award’ for 2008 is artist Clunie Reid of MOT International Gallery. The works shown are a set of towering stacks of collaged pieces of thick foam board ‘gaffer taped’ together. These sculptural pieces combine sampled photo images and graffiti like doodles and writing with other ephemera. Very urban contemporary.

 
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