First Night: Young Brits show life after Monet

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The Independent Online

Business Design Centre


CLAUDE MONET may not need a rock star or a politician to announce he is in town. But Young British Artists still feel a little naked without the "cool'"imprimatur from the combination of musician and government minister.

Last night Culture Secretary Chris Smith was joined by former Eurythmics star Dave Stewart at the opening of , the London Contemporary Art Fair. And the third element of contemporary art chic - a fashionable restaurant - was also an essential part of the evening's entertainment: the celebrations continued with a second champagne reception at Che restaurant in St James's.

Tickets for last night's gala, held in part to raise money for the Serpentine Gallery, were pounds 150. From today, entry to the fair, at the Business Design Centre in Islington, will be pounds 10.

That could, of course, prove the bargain of the year if one spots the next big thing among the canvasses and installations. Or it could leave the visitor wondering at the gullibillity of sections of the art world.

The young Japanese artist Tomoko Takanashi, one of Charles Saatchi's neurotic realists, has extended her reach from the roomful of miscellaneous junk she contributed to the Saatchi show. At she has a sculpture which includes Monopoly boards, mobile phones and tape measures. But Saatchi's blessing is lucrative. Even before the doors opened, this exhibit had already been bought.

But with 90 dealers exhibiting, one can take one's pick of a wide range, both in price and taste. From prints for around pounds 100, up to Ben Nicholson's October 1958 (Brown Goblet) for pounds 150,000, from a bejewelled kitchen plunger by Claire Carter for pounds 2,200 to a pounds 60,000 Damien Hirst spin painting, elegantly titled Beautiful Splatter Shit And Puss Painting, the choice is a broad one.

Indeed, the title can impress as much as the work itself. Simon Tyszko's Arran jumper straitjacket would be impress far less without its title: I Waited (An Eternity) To Hear A Loving Word. The fair now includes a separate section -Start - for 15 younger galleries specialising in new, experimental work. And there's not a still life goblet among them.