When Ryan Stanier of The Other Art Fair wrote to me begging that I delete my posts about it because I was damaging his business, and later importuned me in person in the same regard, I said that I would 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 bottom of the linked page, after all the artist statement and CV smokescreen stuff. Yeah, as if they accept or reject people solely on their artistic merit and charging them is an afterthought… 3m of wall space and “two spotlights” (woo!) now costs £745+VAT (Value Added Tax of 20% which is charged on most commercial products or services in the UK). It costs £1610+VAT for 7m of wall and four spotlights. For this kind of money those spotlights had better be some kind of King Kong searchlight bastards.
Perhaps, some might say, the upfront costs don’t matter so much and it’s a good investment if the artist gets to sell their work. Well, these artist-milking businesses actually rely on aspiring artists having this kind of woolly quasi-capitalist mindset and yet being too desperate– or frankly, sometimes, just too dim– to do the maths. They have their profit margins nicely worked out, of that I can assure you. If you’re an artist, do yourself a favour and start being realistic about your own costs, investments and profits too. You can see my calculations on the previous post if you’re interested, but it suffices here to say that Stanier himself claims that the “average artist” (ha ha, you said it Ryan) at the OAF makes £1200 over two fairs. Unfortunately (even leaving aside transportation, subsistence, plus the labour and materials involved in making the work to begin with) the stand costs alone leave an artist who makes sales of £1200 over two fairs still clearly at a significant financial loss. And another very pissed off little insider bird who feels rather foolish now tells me that they coughed up the money to exhibit at the OAF and they didn’t sell a single thing.
If you’re determined to work for nothing and show your work for nothing, then for the love of Baby Warhol and the Twelve YBAs, please, please at least stop lining the pockets of these shysters while you do so. Even in deep austerity Britain there are low-cost or no-cost alternatives, artist unions, studio groups and artist networks who will advise and support you without any kind of exploitative, cynical agenda. Invest your money in yourself. Help yourself and other artists by starting your own artist collective or gallery instead, and help to put the OAFs of this world out of business.