AMBIKA P3, LONDON, 10-13 MAY 2012
I’ve already seen quite a few comments about The Other Art Fair being ghastly, horrendous, tacky and whatnot. I’m not the most tolerant or broad churchy kind of art follower (see also: most of this blog) but I think this is a bit out of order. A lot of the work on show is not to my taste and some of it is absolutely bloody horrendous by the standards of almost any sentient being with eyes (other than the selectors, evidently), no doubt about that, but there is some good work here as well. Overall the general standard of craft or intellect was hardly worse or more uneven than anything at the supposedly commercial, fully professional and gallery-represented offerings at the London Art Fair. Some of the stuff at OAF I could easily envisage as leading to the artist being picked up by a commercial gallery, although bearing in mind some of the dodgy shit those places show this may not necessarily be a fulsome compliment.
But in any case I’m pretty confident in putting at least some of these reflex expressions of horror down to the all-too familiar and incessant background drone of snobbery and status anxiety that permeates the art world. How dare these artists represent themselves and bypass the gatekeepers?
I was told they’re each paying in the neighbourhood of
£600 to be there. WRONG: It cost them at least £828 including VAT, then more detailed pricing examples emerged with figures like £745+20% VAT for a basic booth and £1610+20% VAT for 7m of wall and four spotlights. As I’ve said before, when the artist becomes the customer then they get to apply the old cliché that the customer is always right… even if that means portraits of tigers, softcore cheesecake or glossy sculptures of men with taps where their penises should be.
What we have here is the revelation of a strange underworld inhabited by outsider artists who, rather than expressing in paint their conviction that God, Jesus and the Twelve Apostles live in their head or drawing intricate utopias in Biro, instead ape the forms of the contemporary art market without ever evoking anyone or anything in particular. But they are nonetheless outsiders, and perhaps in some cases capital-O Outsiders. Outsiders with
£600 £800-£1800 or more going spare.
Unlike the über-commercial, ultra Thatcherite Frieze– or even the London Art Fair- no particular trends or obvious copycats seemed to be apparent apart from there being perhaps a slight penchant for giant photography as a sort of Baby’s First Contemporary Art Practice Set. This is presumably because of the economies and quality improvements in digital imaging and production recently, and the ubiquity of the overkill digital SLR in the hands of even the most casual snapshottist. It may well be that some of the artists at the OAF sell their work (and many of them evidently do sell their work) precisely because of this delicately calibrated inoffensive contemporaneity. It’s contemporary, but it’s not difficult. There are no big ideas here.
OTHER THINGS ABOUT THE OTHER ART FAIR
Artist exhibitors met: 14 (of 100) of which I would say 12 were articulate, pleasant, friendly and focused about their work. So good for them and I wish them luck. About the same number completely failed in rising to the bait, even when I decisively stepped into their space, went nose to canvas, inspected prices, etc. Some of them didn’t even look up. Several hid behind their hair. Two of the 14 I had a conversation with quickly decided that I wasn’t worth talking to any more and/or that I was creeping them out. Only one walked off mid sentence, and mid one of her own sentences at that; the other at least excused herself politely.
Random young man in a posing pouch, standing in a vestibule, who I greeted enthusiastically like an Old Etonian and thanked for opening the door as if standing in a vestibule virtually naked was a normal (or indeed at all acceptable) thing: 1.
Jasper Joffe: 1.
Near damage or destruction of work in Jotta’s alloted space because it was opposite the bar and people kept staggering drunkenly towards it, barging around with ridiculously huge backpacks, slopping wine, dragging their wheelie luggage (WTF?), etc: one every few minutes for as long as the booze was free.
Frizzy-haired, middle aged ladies with giant jumpers and gaudy jewellery: lost count.
I went the whole night without seeing an artist’s statement, nonsense or otherwise. Hallelujah and praise be to God, Jesus and the Twelve Apostles who live in my head.
I wonder if anyone else even noticed that the acronym of the Other Art Fair is OAF?