I am generally not a big fan of art fairs. I used to go to Basel, one of the world’s biggest and most important, but I lost interest and stopped going to it, and most of the other art fairs including London, for two main reasons. Firstly, they are usually much too big so that by the time you are half-way round your feet are tired and you are more interested in finding a cup of tea than looking at often not very good pictures – which brings me to the second and main reason, the inconsistency in quality of work on display. Usually the blatantly commercial outweighs the good stuff by a ratio of at least five to one; there seems to be little or no quality control. I often think a better name for them would be picture markets, not art fairs.
But when I looked at the advance information for ART THE HAGUE it looked interesting and seemed to overcome the two objections I had been harbouring. Firstly, there are only fifty-odd galleries showing and they all seemed of a very high standard. Plus, we had a personal invitation from the organiser Axel Lemmens, so we went along to the private view – and we weren’t disappointed.
Not surprisingly, most of the dealers came from the Netherlands but there were quite a few galleries from Belgium in evidence, as well as one from France. The general standard was very high indeed and there were no stands that deserved to be totally ignored. I can’t imagine this was luck so it must imply there was some serious and well informed curating going on.
I could have written positive things about most of the exhibitors and artists but there were a few that I found worthy of a special mention. Luycks Gallery in Tilburg had some very nice pieces. I particularly liked the three or four paintings by Gijs van Noort from his one-man show Traces of Time. They were bold compositions in rich colours that had a distinct surrealist feel to them. They were almost like multi-media sculptures which had been painted rather than constructed. Other paintings, by Sasha Drutskoy, which were even more surreal, conjuring up strange moods in snowy landscapes, were on show at the Brussels-based Galerie Nardone.
Two Rotterdam galleries we saw recently at Art Central Rotterdam were also in attendance. Muriel Mager’s Contour Gallery was showing a couple of incredible, giant photographs of local interest by Lars van den Brink – a view from the end of the pier of Scheveningen, so detailed you could almost see individual grains of sand on the beach and an aerial view of the area in front of Rotterdam’s Central Station along with some very Dada-esque photocollages, reminiscent of Hannah Höch, from Daria Birang. Frank Taal was showing a mix of galleries artists and every time I see the thread-made works of Saminte Ekeland I like them a little more.
The Lilja Zakirova Gallery had some nice works as well; I really liked the paintings by Nataya Zaloznaya depicting figures which looked as though they were made of glass. I also liked Giovanni Winne’s dark and menacing seascapes which were being shown by the Belgian CAPS Gallery.
I loved Bcademie from Rotterdam’s exhibit for its humour and originality – more of a novelty item but it caught my fancy. A dozen or so tiny pieces of art were laid out on a table each on a miniature wooden palette with a large price tag waiting to be selected, rather like a Sushi bar. Also on the table was a small, radio-controlled fork-lift truck which could be sent, via a radio controlled handset, to pick up and deliver one of the miniature artworks.
I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t had high hopes but I have to say those hopes were exceeded and I really enjoyed ART THE HAGUE 2019. Michael Hasted 2nd October 2019
ART THE HAGUE continues until 6th October. Click here for more details, opening times etc.