How Collect 2020, now at Somerset House, champions living artists

By Isobel Dennis
February 20, 2020

Collect, the international art fair for modern craft and design 27 Feb – 1 March is in a new venue at Somerset House, London. Founded by The Crafts Council in 2004 with the aim of building the profile and sales for collectible craft, it is the only gallery-presented fair dedicated to modern craft and design. Isobel Dennis talks about the move, glass growing more popular and championing living artists.

This year, we are excited to be taking over a large number of beautiful rooms at Somerset House presenting a new environment for Collect exhibitors to contextualise and curate modern craft.

Collect is an international fair – this year there are artists from over 25 nations, from Sweden to Uganda to Japan, whose work spans art, ceramic, furniture, glass, lacquer, textile, leather,  wood and a number of other newer and experimental materials.

For many artists at Collect the traditions of their chosen material are a source of inspiration and reference.  You will see distinct ancient forms such as the Korean moon jar kept alive and celebrated by contemporary potters.

Contemporary works in lacquer traditions from South Korea, China and Japan have also been something we have seen an increase of in recent years.

Presenting works from Africa and its diaspora, 50 Golborne gallery’s offering will include tapestries by Sanaa Gateja who works with Ugandan women to produce beautiful recycled paper beads which are then woven onto bark cloth.

Glass is of particular interest this year and, as a medium to Collect, its popularity is growing. The sheer range of processes and techniques is staggering – Vessel Gallery is showing works by Bethany Wood, who uses oil paint-style brush strokes in glass to stunning effect.

The Czech cast glass tradition is also being reinterpreted in interesting new ways by artists showing with Galerie Kuzebauch from Prague.

We will always have artists that work tirelessly to perfect their chosen material but there seems to be an increasing body of artists and designers collaborating and experimenting with materials – learning from one another.

One example of this previewing at Collect 2020 is a collaboration between master glass artist Edmond Byrne and celebrated metalsmith Adi Toch – together they will present a series of metal sculptural forms containing molten glass under the name Ripple Bowls.

Commissioning for the interior has grown considerably at the event and the confidence in buying comes from the specialist expertise from our exhibiting galleries.

Most of the artists showing at the fair will have works already in museum collections as well an impressive list of exhibitions in their home country and abroad – but we also require galleries to introduce new talent to ensure we are introducing new work onto the market on an annual basis, showcasing the next generation of collectable works.

Collect is proud to champion living artists as nearly all the work presented at the show is made specially for the Fair so if you choose to buy or commission, you get a chance to have a detailed dialogue.

At Collect you can commission anything from a stunning chair, to a beautiful piece of ceramic for yourself to a huge installation in glass for a corporate building.

We find that visitors are interested in the artist’s reputation, but they are also keen to be introduced to new artists just starting out or those from an international gallery they might not get a chance to visit.

Contemporary ceramics are highly collectible and have seen an increase in the variety and ambition of works in clay. We now see more works with a complex narrative and an appreciation of expert techniques as buyers are getting braver.

This confidence and huge importance in ceramics is now being seen in the secondary market at auction houses as well.

Cox London and Rachel Chudley have designed the Collect VIP Lounge and UK based gallery Cavaliero Finn will showcase a huge hanging sculpture by Daniel Reynolds within the West Wing at Somerset House.

Incorporating the largest elements Reynolds has ever worked with, the artist’s dramatic, organic sculpture will be executed in his signature glass and ceramic.