Downstairs in the industrial basement known as Ambika P3, the Sunday Art Fair returns this year with indie galleries from around the world sharing their wares with adventurous collectors as if in secret, like an aesthetic plot being hatched away from polite society's watchful eyes. It's a great place to encounter artists you haven't seen before. Here are five to look out for at this year's edition of the fair.
Rachel Uffner – New York
It may be hard to find a more European name than Strauss Bourque-LaFrance, but the cartoonish assemblage paintings of this Maine-born artist are decidedly American in character, made from plywood that he jig-saws into curvaceous pieces and cobbles together into something resembling a Philip Guston blended with a street sign. The son of a furniture dealer who included fun workaday objects like buoys along with his more conventional wares, Bourque-LaFrance roots his paintings in a similar context of quirky domestic space, and his pieces—among the most easily salable entrants at Sunday, at $6,000 to $9,000—were very popular at the fair.
Evelyn Yard – London
A recent graduate of the Royal Academy at the mature age of 37, Elliott Dodd is fascinated by the way machismo is expressed in Western society these days, when the old-fashioned virtues of being a muscly footballer or rugged cowboy have been superseded by a knack for hacking or (who knows?) the ownership of a Prius. At the fair, Dodd was investigating this preoccupation with a 4k video of a couple in a BMW, parked in the woods, who spoke lines from Jane Eyre to each other about the notion of being handsome—only with the genders of the parts changed, and with the characters given grotesquely animated faces squirming with vaguely sexual shapes.
Elsewhere in the booth the artist had paintings that he deems self-portraits, done in the same animated style, which morphs based on the mood he’s in when making them. (If hungry, the faces look like sandwiches; if discussing babies with his wife, they become overtly phallic.) Dodd’s odd work was a hit: the whole booth sold (at £1,750 for the video to £4,000 for the large paintings) to the Zabludowiczes and one other collector.
Stems Gallery – Brussels
A maker of rule-based artworks, the Belgian conceptualist Valérian Goalec spent some time scouring through the flea markets of Brussels’s Les Marolles, haggling with the sellers to buy plain vases and other basic vessels. Taking these back to the studio, he then encased them in blocks of egaline, a kind of fast-drying floor leveler that looks like concrete but dries incredibly smooth to the touch. Exactly as tall as the vases they surround, these blocks are then packed in wooden shipping crates, that double as pedestals. Somewhere between a sculpture and an ingenious piece of functional design—since there’s nothing to stop a buyer from putting flowers in the apertures—the pieces were easy delights, and rather irresistible at €3,000 to €4,000.
Drei – Cologne
To understand the complex, multilayered, technologically astute video work of the German artist Maximillian Schmoetzer, it helps to know that he studied with the great Hito Steyerl at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. When it comes to his riveting video at the Sunday Art Fair, it also helps to know that in 2012 the energy-drink company Red Bull sent the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner up on a rocket to the cusp of outer space, where he dived out of his pod in a spacesuit and parachute, executing the highest jump in human history.
That corporate stunt is the, ahem, jumping-off point for Schmoetzer’s piece, which comments on the rocket-aided sporting event through a string of unusual free associations, like a rapping T-Rex (meant to represent the horizontality of time in contrast to the verticality of the jump, according to the gallery), a Go Pro camera (which was used to film the jump, and here is seen placed inside a running washing machine and used by Israeli army trainees as they secure a cargo ship), and some Nike unboxing videos. It’s all very strange and captivating, and one watches it while standing on a carpet printed from a 3D model of the computer-animated T-Rex’s footprint. At €5,000 (in an edition of five) this sold to the Zabludowiczes too.
Anat Ebgi – Los Angeles
The British artist Neil Raitt is a lover of the amateur, a fan of the Sunday painter, who takes such a degree of spiritual guidance from the TV art teacher Bob Ross that he uses the same brands of Van Dyke brown and titanium white in his own paintings of cabins and landscapes repeated at intervals, wallpaper-style. Raitt has also gotten into the art of craft objects, so he recently traveled to Gloucestershire to apprentice with a 90-year-old wicker weaver to learn how to hand-weave gargantuan lampshades for the kitschy cactus lamp sculptures that he makes from plywood and Jasmenite. At the fair, his paintings and cactus were featured in a little beach hut that the artist built on a pile of sand in the middle of the event floor, with the giant lamp selling at $20,000, the paintings range between $4,500 and $16,000.