THE OTHER ART FAIR

11 May

AMBIKA P3, LONDON, 10-13 MAY 2012

An unfortunate sign at the OAF. They threatened to call the police when I took it literally.

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?

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10 Responses to “THE OTHER ART FAIR”

  1. jowonder 05/10/2012 at 9:48 AM #

    He he! I guess that it must have been my friend Geraldine Swayne who was participating in the Other Art Fair 2012 and hiding behind her hair, maybe she was playing her guitar too ,he he he
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geraldine_Swayne

    • Alistair 06/10/2012 at 11:21 AM #

      I have no idea if you’re right. You may or may not be. When the artists were weird with me or rude (or weird and rude simultaneously) I wasn’t inclined to look at their work. In other words, being there and not conducting oneself properly is probably worse than not being there at all. At a show like this you do NOT need to be alienating people when they can just move a few feet to one side and see somebody’s else’s work.

  2. Ryan Stanier 06/10/2012 at 7:28 AM #

    Dear Mr Gentry

    Thank you for taking your time to visit The Other Art Fair (TOAF) in May.
    Firstly I’m very sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy all artists at the fair, with 90 artists at the fair showing work across a wide variety of mediums it’s quite a challenge to deliver a fair where visitors appreciate all work on show. I think if everyone found 14 artists they like that’s not a bad percentage.

    To compare the quality at TOAF to The London Art Fair, which is a fair that has been running successfully for the past 23 years is quite a compliment. Especially as the majority of the artists at TOAF are very much at the start of their careers whilst The London Art Fair has some of the most recognizable names in modern and contemporary art.

    The Other Art Fair is still in its infancy and we are striving to deliver new and exciting artists. The fair in November has received 500 applications from artists wanting to participate for which we have selected 90. In addition we have a talks programme hosted by Jotta, a performance art area by FAD, a Photography section plus live music. Therefore we are aiming to have a full programme to keep visitors entertained.

    As you know it’s very difficult for artists to gain exposure, sell work and meet gallerists therefore The Other Art Fair creates a platform that achieves this. I’m pleased to say that over the last two fairs 36 of the 169 artists that have participated are now working with recognized galleries they met at the fair. In addition the average sale per artist over two fairs is £1200, which all in all isn’t bad for their £600.

    I welcome you to the fair in November and will happily show you around.

    Kind regards

    Ryan Stanier

    P.s thank you for not taking our sign literally.

    • Alistair 06/10/2012 at 12:19 PM #

      To split hairs a wee bit, I met twelve artists I liked; I didn’t necessarily like the work of those twelve artists, although some of them I did. I spoke to two other artists (12+2=14) who were both quite rude; in one of these cases I had been interested in talking to her about her work until she was so incredibly rude as to simply walk away from me when she randomly decided that our entirely inoffensive conversation was over. If, in future, I was to see her work elsewhere then the first thing I’d think of would not be the quality of her work but instead what an unpleasant person she made herself seem to be. The second would be to recommend that nobody work with her because there are more than enough arrogant, selfish little divas working in the arts already. QED. Some of the OAF artists clearly need some guidance on how to conduct themselves professionally, and possibly also some coaching on making the most of their £600 by showing their best work and showing it well, not just cramming in whatever random stuff they have.

      My advice: if you’re an artist and you’ve somehow got it into your head that certain visitors to your exhibition matter more than others… stop. Unless you’re massively well-connected and knowledgeable already, you probably won’t know if that woman who looks like a bag lady is actually one of Europe’s most avid and progressive art collectors. You probably won’t know at a glance that somebody is a curator or gallerist who might have wanted to have a meeting with you until you dissed her to her face, a journalist working on an article about work like yours, or a retiring accountant who’s suddenly decided he wants to buy art for the first time. Or, nowadays, that person could well be a blogger with thousands of readers (many of whom are fellow artists, curators and other arts professionals) who then feels like telling all those readers what an unprofessional and unpleasant pain in the arse you actually are (HINT).

      Be nice to everybody, and if you can’t be nice, at least be polite.

      To split another hair, if the average sale per artist over two fairs amounts to £1200 and the cost of participating is £600 per fair, then the average artist isn’t in profit; they’re just covering the cost of being there, although probably not the cost of making the work and other peripheral expenses. One could argue that is taking one step forward and one step back. I think artists should aspire to do more than scrape by and break even. There may well be other benefits that can’t really be measured in numbers or money, like exposure and publicity. “Exposure”, unfortunately, is one of those toxic words that get dangled in front of artists as a substitute for actually making a living. Being known and being seen is part of the contemporary art game, but an artist can’t eat kudos, and hundreds of indifferent strangers flicking their eyeballs across your work doesn’t give you the wherewithal to keep on making new work.

      I wasn’t wild about the London Art Fair either because I found a lot of the work on show horribly crass and more decorative than truly engaged with contemporary practice, i.e. attractive but intellectually hollow. Some of the work at OAF was certainly no worse in these regards, however, so you can take that faint praise if you like.

      PS: Just to be clear, nobody at the OAF threatened to have me arrested. I was joking. You know, like when I captioned a picture of Jesus on Palm Sunday with a quote from Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, or when I captioned a picture of a bearded hippie with a lava lamp “Tacita Dean”.

      • GGA 18/11/2012 at 4:53 PM #

        I see that you are very well informed, but I would like to add something a little banal, that in art as in any other high risk adventure you’ll come across numerous opinions, but the only one that counts is in the work itself, the rest is mere speculation … Giorgio Granozio – Edinburgh

      • Alistair 18/11/2012 at 6:21 PM #

        That’s pretty much the whole point of this blog. In contemporary art there’s too much justification of the unjustifiable, sycophancy towards the rich and powerful, obsession with celebrity culture and being a celebrity, status anxiety, utter pretentiousness, ridiculous ego, blatant lies, tragic desperation and sheer stupidity, people who serve no useful purpose making lots of money while worthwhile and talented individuals languish, and so on ad nauseum… all of which detract from the important thing about art which is– duh– art.

  3. GGA 18/11/2012 at 6:34 PM #

    ‘Time will judge’, Time is a gentleman, – Il tempo è galantuomo, we say in Italy. Thanks for your quick answer. Giorgio Granozio

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] THE OTHER ART FAIR. “Get your ass to Mars.” […]

  2. THE OTHER ART FAIR: A CORRECTION « CAREER SUICIDE - 08/11/2012

    […] private requests from Ryan Stanier of the OAF that I delete my last post about the OAF (read it here first if you haven’t already) or amend it so as to make unfavourable/critical parts of that […]

  3. THE OTHER ART FAIR: ANOTHER CORRECTION « CAREER SUICIDE - 19/12/2012

    […] not do that but I would correct any factually incorrect information I had provided. Unfortunately in my first article I’d understated the cost to artists of exhibiting in this show. Now a little bird has told me that the OAF’s prices have gone up again. See drop menu near […]

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