Just when it seemed the art world had a touch of fair fatigue, Art 13 arrived in London to shake things up. Billed as a fair that presents a truly global perspective, expectations were high. Frieze has had a stranglehold on London for so long and has such a western aesthetic.  The big question was how Art 13 would compare.

If the Thursday’s opening night was anything to go by, it’s started very well.  The aisles were jammed with collectors, curators and celebrities. There was a tangible buzz and everyone was enjoying themselves. Olympia felt airy and fresh. The galleries expansive and bold. The energy continued on Friday too. It was busy with many galleries reporting good sales.  By the weekend the serious collectors had made way for a curious public but any worries about collectors not making the journey to Olympia were unfounded.

So why so different? Why such palpable energy? Art 13 presented 129 galleries from 30 countries. By my count, 58% were European, 5% American and 15% Asian. The remainder spread across the Middle East, South America and the rest of the world. Compare that to Frieze London 2012 with a much higher 170 galleries but from around the same number of countries, 55% of which were European, 16% American and only 4% Asian.

Nyoman Masriadi at Gajah Gallery

Nyoman Masriadi at Gajah Gallery

The presence of the Asian galleries brought a very different aesthetic to Art 13, injecting a vibrancy and variety into the rational, controlled, conceptual work in so many of the Berlin, London and New York galleries. Whilst most visitors I spoke to found the quality of work a little mixed in places, there was enthusiasm for so many new and interesting galleries and artists. Many commented too on the experience of walking around the fair. It felt less claustrophobic than Frieze and easier to navigate than London Art Fair. And the timing was good – a quiet time in the calendar with only the Armory in New York close by.

So a fresh faced start for Art 13 London. Let’s hope the sales were good enough to encourage an even higher representation from Asia next year. Though Africa and South America were still woefully under represented, Art 13 could become a truly global fair.

What caught my eye?  Tom Benson at Hidde Van Siggelen www.hiddevanseggelen.com/artists/tom-benson   Gordon Shrigely at IMT Gallery  www.imagemusictext.com/artists/gordon-shrigley   and Nyoman Masriadi at Gajah Gallery  www.gajahgallery.com/nyoman-masriadi/

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