Opening of the week: All the fun of the art fair

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The Independent Culture

Those who queued round the immense block that is the Business Design Centre in Islington seemed impervious not just to the freezing weather but also to market forces as the hordes turned out to raise a glass to the start of the London Art Fair.

Gavin Turk nestled on a fancy sofa next to Sir Peter Blake, who looked every inch the elderman of the art world, complete with elegant walking-stick. Near by was the colourfully attired Adam Dant at the House of Fairytales gallery, who sat with pen and paper, drawing the public as either "beauty or beast" with the swift speed of a street artist – for £250 a pop.

The wine flowed as guests encountered the (often) affordable edge of contemporary art. The recession could perhaps be detected in the hopeless dearth of canapés. The band, Keane, had been expected to appear but didn't – in their absence, their life-size sculptures (with one band member sculpted virtually upside down) – adorned one gallery space. Jon Martin, the gallerist and director of the Dubai Art Fair, stood glass in hand, talking avidly to prominent London dealers. Jason Smith, the up-and-coming designer, posed for the cameras and marvelled at a series of installations by young Indian artists.

Jonathan Burton, director of the London Art Fair, stood on the upper decks surveying his partying kingdom. This year, he said, more galleries than ever had participated. There might be a recession on, he said, but the art world certainly knew how to keep its spirits up.

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