When it comes to large scale fairs, the art world has its calendar pretty much sewn up every year. Between Frieze, Affordable and the London Art Fair to name but the headliners in the UK and summer well known to be avoided with the holiday season – not to mention the Royal Academy flying in the face of such fecklessness with its Summer Show (well, it can, it’s the Royal Academy) – but there is one offering that has decided to wedge itself in less than a week in a tucked-away corner in Mecklenburg Square.
Where? I hear you ask. Well, quite. A first-time art fair in a little-known location in a fallow period in an already busy calendar? You’ll be surprised when I tell you but, suffice to say, it seems to have stumbled into something of a niche. And, by all accounts, it’s doing rather well. Its opening night is over-subscribed, it’s attracted over 40 artists and exhibitors, including a number of leading galleries representing works from Banksy to Damien Hirst, and to cap it all, it’s all for a good cause.
The Bloomsbury Art Fair is the collaboration of four enterprising individuals united by having been at the receiving end of a serious spinal injury. Eva-Marie Anderson, Victoria Holton, George Crofton and Michael Bowes QC, have each been affected by an accident participating in something that could, literally, have happened to anyone, be it horse-riding or diving into the ocean. The motivation for hosting such an ambitious event – other than giving people the opportunity to acquire great works of art – was to celebrate the achievements and raise awareness of people affected by catastrophic injuries as well as raise money for four key charities to whom all proceeds from the fair will be donated: Motivation, the Parachute Regiment Charity, the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust and the Spinal Injuries Association.
And, appropriately, one of the headline ‘acts’, if you will, is Jill Berelowitz. A sculptor working across a range of media, one of Jill’s exhibiting works is Core Femme, is a huge six-metre spine sculpture currently on show in Cavendish Square.
During a fortuitous sunny break in what’s fast becoming a wash-out of a summer, I met Jill by her work to ask her about participating in Bloomsbury. As I approached, I couldn’t miss the piece. It’s top section curves above the surrounding hedgerow and would warrant a double-take if I didn’t already know what I was looking for. Standing below it, studying it, it suddenly occurred to me that each vertebra is, in fact, a female torso. “I really wanted this to look like bone, so from afar it looks like a large spine…but then there is a hidden meaning,” Jill explains. “The works are two-fold, there’s a literal and then a metaphorical. This represents life to me…it’s not so much a spine but a tree of life, the spine of which runs through the female core.”
Working across a number of materials, from resin to bronze to steel, that spirit of life cycle, life force, spirit of living – call it what you will – is central to Berelowitz’s work. “It’s a theme that runs through everything I do…with my Trees of Life, I cast small apple branches in bronze – there’s a wonderful 300-year old orchard where I get my apple branches – I then use those branches to weld and create my own trees. It’s similar to this [spine]in that from afar it looks like a tree but when you come close you see it’s made up of people with their arms out-stretched, and they’re celebrating life. There’s a six foot one coming to Bloomsbury.” It’s a theme that’s central to Bloomsbury’s ethos, too, and with Core Femme exemplifying this ethos, it will come as no surprise that Berelowitz is donating half of the proceeds from the sculpture’s sale to the Fair’s charities.
As well as works available for sale the fair is hosting a range of fund-raising events and activities, including a sculpture prize draw, and live and silent auctions for artworks and other prizes. The cause notwithstanding, however, the calibre of exhibitors it’s attracted and the beautiful Georgian buildings and grounds in which its set is testament to the organisers’ abilities that the inaugural Bloomsbury Art Fair is creating a significant amount of interest in the art world.
It might just be another event to add to one’s annual calendar.
The Bloomsbury Art Fair runs 13 – 16 July. For more information, visit the website.