Six must-sees at London’s Collect fair

The highlights at the international fair for modern craft and design at Somerset House showcasing work from over 400 artists

Cabinet of Curiosities by Danish glassblower Steffen Dam, £48,000 from Joanna Bird Contemporary Collections
Cabinet of Curiosities by Danish glassblower Steffen Dam, £48,000 from Joanna Bird Contemporary Collections

Back for its 16 year, Collect, the only gallery-presented art fair dedicated to modern craft, will be showcasing the work of over 400 artists from February 27 to March 1. This will be the fair’s first year at Somerset House, where exhibitors from 25 countries will showcase an overarching collection of contemporary craft.

Joshua Kerley’s Composite jars, £900 each from Bullseye Projects
Joshua Kerley’s Composite jars, £900 each from Bullseye Projects

First launched at the V&A in 2004, the fair was founded by The Crafts Council in a bid to put a spotlight on collectable design. What has resulted is an international event that allows visitors to peruse and purchase an astonishing variety of one-off pieces. Here’s what to look out for:

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Joanna Bird Contemporary Collections

Occupying one of the bigger spaces at Somerset House is Joanna Bird, a London-based ceramics expert who looks after an expansive stable of ceramic and glass artists. Here, Slovenian artist Tanja Pak uses her sculptures to explore the action of breathing, while Danish glassblower Steffen Dam presents Cabinet of Curiosities, his largest and most detailed work to date. Tying things up is Japanese ceramicist Hattori Makiko, whose sinuous vessels, delicately embellished with tiny ribbons of porcelain, are a prime example of the level of craftsmanship that Bird’s gallery represents.

Yun Ju-cheol’s dramatically textured Jang vessel, £3,600 from Lloyd Choi Gallery
Yun Ju-cheol’s dramatically textured Jang vessel, £3,600 from Lloyd Choi Gallery

New Galleries

A quarter of the galleries participating in Collect 2020 will do so for the first time. Among this number is the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary at the fair with Tradition Redressed, an exhibition showcasing the work of seven QEST scholars. Three new galleries, meanwhile, hail from Asia: Hong Kong’s The Gallery by Soil, South Korea’s Gallery Sklo and – most excitingly – Lloyd Choi Gallery, the contemporary Korean art and design gallery tasked with showcasing the prickly exteriors of Yun Ju-cheol’s dramatically textured vessels.  

Margo Selby’s geometric textile Vexillum, £18,000
Margo Selby’s geometric textile Vexillum, £18,000

Glass

For this year’s Collect, glass will give pottery a run for its money. As the medium becomes increasingly desired in collecting circles, artists have met the demand by pushing the boundaries of what can be created. Bethany Wood, represented by London-based Vessel Gallery, uses her multi-textured works to capture fleeting brush strokes; Bullseye Projects’ Joshua Kerley will present new riffs on kiln-glass; and Joon-Yong Kim’s crop of thickly cast vessels is to be showcased by Gallery Sklo, Korea’s first gallery to specialise in contemporary glass sculptures and objects. 

Ottchil Jogakbo – a hand-stitched wall hanging of pieces of natural silk dyed with homegrown herbs – by Lee So-ra, £5,000 from Lloyd-Choi-Galley
Ottchil Jogakbo – a hand-stitched wall hanging of pieces of natural silk dyed with homegrown herbs – by Lee So-ra, £5,000 from Lloyd-Choi-Galley | Image: Rei M

Textiles

2020’s textile offering is also extensive. There are geometric studies woven by Margo Selby and works in textile and metal from Julia Griffiths Jones, two makers showcasing as part of Collect Open, a platform that allows 12 artists to represent themselves through an original body of work made specifically for the fair. Elsewhere, Lloyd Choi Gallery will present pieces by Lee So-ra. Inspired by jogakbo, a traditional style of Korean patchwork that uses salvaged fabric, So-ra creates wall hangings by hand-stitching pieces of natural silk dyed with homegrown herbs. 

Annette Marie Townsend’s Treasure, £28,500 – a wildflower sculpture crafted from beeswax
Annette Marie Townsend’s Treasure, £28,500 – a wildflower sculpture crafted from beeswax

Conscious Art

Other artists have underpinned their art with a cause. For British potter Linda Bloomfield, Collect Open has provided an opportunity to showcase her lichen-effect porcelain, an installation designed to bring attention to the effects of global warming on lichens, organisms sensitive to pollution that can be used to indicate clean air. Also presenting at Collect Open are UK-based Jacky Oliver and Annette Marie Townsend. Oliver has created a metalwork interpretation of “Grow Your Own” gardens in response to mounting environmental challenges, while Townsend, working with a similar theme, explores the natural world with wildflower sculptures crafted from beeswax. 

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Isobel Dennis

But what does Isobel Dennis, the fair’s director, consider as must-sees? “With artists represented from over 25 nations, the calibre, creativity and breadth of work is quite staggering,” she says. “It is therefore very difficult to pick out favourites.” But for their “international reach and diversity of materials”, she does highlight the likes of art gallery 50 Golborne’s Sanaa Gateja, Candida Stevens Gallery’s Alice Kettle, ESH Gallery’s Yoshiaki Kojiro and Oxford Ceramics’ Akio Niisato.

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