Contemporary Art Market: Unknowns given a showcase

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The Independent Online
ART galleries will boom temporarily while shops and offices are closed by the recession. A scheme has been set up to fill empty commercial spaces in the West End of London with works of art.

In theory, landlords and estate agents should benefit because an occupied property is easier to sell or let than an empty one; artists should benefit because their work will be seen in a central location; and residents, businesses and visitors should benefit from an improved environment.

The Mayfair Trust, a registered charity, is focusing on 'the visual pollution of streetscapes' - the flyposters and graffiti that afflict properties almost as soon as they fall vacant. The scheme, based on a Danish model, has been set up in association with local residents' groups.

Jonathan Fisher, co-ordinator of the project, said that six months ago, he counted more than a dozen empty premises in Bond Street and, more recently, nine empty units in South Molton Street - both prime shopping streets.

The trust will promote artists who have yet to be represented by a gallery. This, he said, was particularly important in a recession-hit market where dealers are forced to show 'commercially viable artists'. He said: 'There will be a mix of degree- show work and people who've been around for a few years and had just a couple of shows.'

The first exhibition has opened at 60 Brook Street, in a period building that used to house Bluetts, an oriental art gallery. Twelve contemporary artists provide an eclectic show, with large abstract oils from Nicholas Hatton (who has just graduated from the Chelsea School of Art); silk screens - both figurative and abstract - using electronic imaging, by Rosalind Kunath (an RCA graduate); and sculpture, a granite column carved with insect, plant and organic life, by Richard Aumonier (also from the RCA). Prices range from pounds 200 to pounds 1,200.

Other 1993 graduates can be seen at the Mall Galleries in The Mall. Twenty postgraduates from five London colleges have been selected by their department heads for an exhibition showing until 27 August.

Although the display of each work is individual, Sarah Davies from the Mall Galleries believes that it is, to an extent, possible to guess the college from which the artists have come. For example, she said, the size of a canvas often gives away a Slade student: Frances Aviva Blane's pounds 1,000 wall-sized abstracts, with swirling, tempestuous lines and daubs of thick oil paint, are typically Slade.

Chelsea and Goldsmiths students tend towards installation and conceptual art: for example, Wendy McMurdo of Goldsmiths will be flooding a small room with red light, guiding the eye to two photographic images of desert landscapes. The work costs pounds 1,500, including the photographs and three light bulbs.

Among the most impressive artists is Andrew Gadd, of the Royal Academy Schools, whose portraits and figures look to the inspiration of Lucian Freud, Courbet and Cezanne. Prices range from pounds 600 to pounds 5,500. At his degree show he sold pounds 14,500 worth of art.

(Photograph omitted)