Between August 27th and 31st 2017 I will be taking over the Young Space WIP Instagram account to document my practice and current projects. As part of this I will be collaborating with ArtRooms art fair on a series of posts featuring artists who, like myself, have applied to exhibit in the 2018 edition of the event. It is clear to me that both Young Space and ArtRooms share a strong interest in promoting and supporting independent artists, and seek to offer them the opportunity to present work to a large audience on their own terms. Needless to say, I am very much in favour of such an approach, and having been accepted for a takeover of Youngspace WIP it occurred to me that there could be much to gain in suggesting a collaboration with ArtRooms, not only for the 3 parties involved, but critically for other artists as well.
To give a brief explanation, Young Space is a highly respected online platform that showcases hundreds of talented independent artists through interviews, website features and social media, plus occasional ‘live’ projects. ArtRooms is an annual art fair for independent artists (i.e. not galleries) held at the Melia White House hotel in London. More information on either can be found on their respective websites www.art-rooms.org and www.young-space.com. Critically, neither charges artists for the oppcortunities they offer. Young Space do not charge artists for their features. Aside from a small application fee to cover admin costs, ArtRooms do not charge selected artists for their space at the fair, which is in stark contrast to most any other equivalent event of which I am aware. I’m very happy that both parties have been so enthusiastic about working together and through doing so I hope we can offer something to the artists we have selected to feature and of course those of you reading this. The subject of the collaboration is the artist’s view on art fairs in relation to their own practice. I drafted a short interview on the subject which was put to all ArtRooms applicants and we have selected five artists’ responses to publish alongside documentation images of their studios and work in progress.
The art fair is a subject of great interest to me. Having worked for a gallery at numerous fairs both in the U.K. and abroad for many years, I have a good understanding of a dealer’s approach. Over the last decade or so the importance, scale, number and profile of art fairs has increased considerably. Of course the vast majority cater for galleries as exhibitors, rather than independent artists, and as such they are essentially high end trade fairs. Running a gallery is a costly pursuit. Above all an art fair represents an opportunity, often the best opportunity, for a dealer to make sales and in the majority of cases more people will visit one’s art fair stand in a week than would ordinarily pass through a permanent premises over the course of a couple of months (assuming one even has such a space). What’s more, many visitors to a fair will be very much open to the idea of making a purchase. The chance to make a relatively high number of sales in a short space of time cannot be ignored by the gallerist, and this is entirely understandable, particularly considering that most art fairs are eye wateringly expensive to participate in (stand fees alone can often reach tens of thousands of pounds, plus there’s shipping, staffing and so on). Thus, any gallery wishing to make good business decisions will approach an art fair with sales front and centre.
As an artist, one must look at this with pragmatism. Generally speaking the art fair does not offer the greatest curatorial value around. By its nature it cannot present a broad and even survey of artists working today and in terms of artists exhibited it cannot be an inclusive, meritocratic event. What it can be is a good gauge of the art that is selling at any one time. We know galleries will hang their stands to sell, and this is understood. For the vast majority of artists, ever seeing their work appear at an art fair is highly unlikely. First they would need to achieve gallery representation, and then they would need to be seen as one of that gallery’s prime commercial options. Of course only a tiny percentage of artists manage this, even with the significant growth of the art fair in recent years. I certainly have no expectation that my work might make its way into an an art fair via this, the established route. Furthermore, if it did, knowing what I do about the way galleries use fairs, I would consider it of little value beyond the commercial. For most artists I would suggest that the art fair represents very well all that is exclusive, inaccessible and unattainable about the fiercely commerce driven art world.
However there are now a small number of fairly young fairs that focus on independent artists as exhibitors, rather than galleries. This is of course a wonderful development for artists, even if the general structure is basically the same as those events that cater for galleries. Costs are still relatively high, so sales remain the main aim. This is where ArtRooms differs. ArtRooms offer exhibition space to selected artists for no fee, and for me this changes the game entirely. Such a gesture of support removes the necessity for exhibitors to consider the commercial side of their work at all if they so choose. Artists have the liberty to work with creative freedom and present something at an art fair that goes entirely against the rigidly prescribed commercial angle. ArtRooms have adopted what I understand to be an unprecedented approach to supporting artists – taking the most overtly commercial structure the artworld has thus far devised and turning it on its head for the significant benefit of the artists. They offer a very real route to exhibiting at an art fair without the traditionally associated financial risk and, by extension, the restriction on what can reasonably be exhibited. ArtRooms is a unique opportunity for artists to approach their work free of commercial burden, but still achieve the significant exposure that is unique to the art fair model. It is true that they charge a commission on sales, but even this is significantly lower than a traditional gallery fee and is of course only payable if the artist themselves makes a sale. Overall it’s a deal that, on a one to one basis, makes it practically impossible for the exhibitor to come out worse off than the fair. That’s pretty much unheard of in my book.
The potential outcome is significant. Aside from the obvious benefit to the exhibiting artists, the fair as a whole could well become one of the best examples of its type in terms of pure creativity. Artists have the opportunity to present work raw and uncensored. Work which has not been presented through the filter of gallery acceptability or given the commercial gloss that makes it a ‘marketable asset’. One can go to any number of art fairs and wind up seeing the same work, presented the same way, hung on the same temporary contract matt white partition walls. Their homogeneous nature is such that a fair in Hong Kong could just as well be a fair in New York or a fair in Basel in terms of content. However ArtRooms has the makings of something altogether different. It is accessible, fosters true creativity at source, and offers its visitors insights into the way an artist works like no other event of its kind.
So, these are my own thoughts on he subject, and why I believe that among the many, many fairs out there, ArtRooms deserves particular attention. Before hearing from the five interviewed applicants I’d like to make it clear that at the time of publishing this I have yet to hear whether my application to exhibit at ArtRooms has been successful. And in case anyone was wondering, I’m not on their payroll either! The fact is I believe they’re running a very worthy project aimed at benefiting independent artists and irrespective of the outcome of my own application, they warrant genuine support.
1. What are your opinions on art fairs as an artist? Are they important to you as part in your engagement with art overall, in comparison to going to gallery exhibitions, artists’ talks, seminars and so on?
2. Where do you think art fairs fit in the art world in general and what do you perceive as their major benefits and drawbacks to artists?
3. Why did you decide to apply for ArtRooms in particular? If selected, how would you hope to benefit from participating?
-4.Does your intention to exhibit at ArtRooms affect the way in which you approach your own work?
1. I consider going to art fairs a part of my job as a professional artist. They are a great way to see a lot of art in one place. On the downside, they are a challenging environment in which to experience art so if I want to go deeper with an artist’s work and really spend time with it, I prefer galleries and museums to art fairs.
2. Increasingly, galleries make most of their sales at fairs so they are very important commercially. What is great about fairs is the number of people who come through and see and hopefully buy the art. A major drawback of the proliferation of fairs is that they create a certain environment in which ‘loud’ and / or gimmicky art does much better than quieter and more subtle kinds of art, which means galleries bring that kind of art to fairs, which in turn shapes collectors’ perception and expectation and makes it more difficult for some artists to get their work noticed.
3. I was fortunate to be selected for ArtRooms 2017 and it was a positive experience so it was clear that I would apply again. If selected, I hope to make more interesting contacts and to have my work seen by the growing international art audience ArtRooms attracts.
4. While it doesn’t affect the content of my work, having participated in ArtRooms 2017 means I know how the rooms work and what their strengths and weaknesses are. This will certainly influence which works I choose for ArtRooms 2018 if I am selected to participate.
1. Art fairs are definitely secondary to exhibitions and artist’s talks; I use them as a way of seeing how not to display artwork!
2. Art fairs are important; they allow galleries to be seen by a massive audience, over a short period of time and some galleries only survive on art fairs. My problem is that galleries tend to play it safe to guarantee their sales and are less likely to take risks with emerging or younger artists. Having said that, the project spaces are good platforms for emerging artists. Some bigger fairs are becoming too elitist and events to be ‘seen at’, rather than see.
3. ArtRooms gives the artists control. With the unique concept and environment I am hoping for a more intimate engagement with the audience and to move away from the white wall look, letting the works speak for themselves.
4. ArtRooms will provide the platform to exhibit the work, not influence it. It will be nice to exhibit works in an environment that is new to them. With most of my 3D prints being unique, one off works I will produce a limited print edition for the ArtRooms event, allowing my work to be accessible to everyone.
1. Art fairs are a great way to view current contemporary art by artists who are not necessarily established or have the constraints funded artists may be experiencing or working within. When you select an exhibition to visit it may relate to your personal interests and it can possibly inhibit you, however when visiting an art fair, you may encounter works which you would otherwise overlook or not have the opportunity to view. There’s also a social element to the experience, it is always positive to communicate with like minded people and discuss processes and artworks. The art fair will usually feature international artworks, there’s a real feeling of excitement that the world’s art is under one roof.
2. Art fairs within the art world enable both artists and galleries to present to a much wider audience. It allows an engaging platform in which your artwork can be viewed in a different way. A bonus would be the ability to reach out to your audience and gain exposure and hopefully more interest in your work. As a gallery there’s the opportunity to gain more followers or subscriptions to your gallery newsletters. I guess the drawback of the art fair would be the overwhelming amount of art in once space and artworks almost competing for your attention. Artworks may sometimes struggle to breath within the space and perceptions may become skewed or influenced. But I think as a whole art fairs are a positive for artists and galleries, and as a viewer it allows a wide range of art to become highly accessible.
3. Last year I visited Le Dame Art Gallery and after speaking to the curator I became very interested in the concept of ArtRooms and felt it complemented my practice as an artist. I explore the power of the bedroom and would really incorporate this should I be selected to show at ArtRooms. I am currently working on a sculpture which has been specifically inspired by this concept and I have benefitted already just through gaining inspiration when visiting the exclusive space.
4. ArtRooms will be an amalgamation of different and diverse artists, from which it would be difficult not to gain inspiration! The ArtRooms concept is unique and allows a contained freedom which really interests me as an artist. I have always been drawn to ‘the room’ as a paradoxical place of both solace and turmoil; I would really use the space to fully immerse my ideas and concepts.
1. The art market in general is getting more and more difficult for emerging artists. Art has become an equity investment vehicle, which makes it very difficult for lots of artists who are not represented by a gallery or are reluctant to do so for various reasons. The art world has changed and art fairs have become an important part for galleries as this is where collectors now do most of their browsing and buying. Participating in an art fair these days can cost a gallery hundreds of thousands of dollars and this means they can only focus on selling ‘market tested’ trophy works.
2. These factors make it very difficult for emerging artists and the only answer is to take part in artists’ fairs. This allows work to be seen by a large number of visitors, much larger than the average number of gallery visitors. I have taken part in several art fairs in the past, which was a really good way of getting my work seen and making a few sales, but the overall experience was that the sales cost just about covered the expense of the hiring fee of the stand which I consider the main drawback. However I feel that it’s an essential part of an artist’s practice now to run their own show as it is also a way of networking with other artists.
3. The reason I applied for ArtRooms is explained above. I think that it is great that selected artists get an exciting, far more creative and also organic platform to play with that’s not the hostile white cube situation. I imagine that it will give visitors an opportunity to view the works in an environment that might inspire them as it might mirror their own homes or give them ideas of how best to place a work of art in a domestic setting. There are a lot of people who lack that imagination and this this might be a way to change that. The benefits of taking part in ArtRooms is not only to show the work to a much wider audience, but once again the networking opportunities that might arise from taking part and which might lead to future exhibitions.
4. The character of my work would not be changed by participating in ArtRooms as I consider a lot of my most recent works as drawings/paintings in space, i.e. They become part of a space.
1. I generally try to avoid art fairs as a way of experiencing art. The grander art fairs tend to be full of ‘the usual suspects’ exhibiting populist works that can guarantee a sale. Whilst the smaller ones reek of desperation as the artists need to make sales to cover their entry fee. It doesn’t often feel like a healthy reflection of human creativity.
2. In my opinion art fairs are a bit of a necessary evil. Galleries and artists want to reach new clients and we all need to pay the bills. They are purely for the purpose of making money so it is important that anyone visiting realises that they will not necessarily experience the true message of the artist. The art fair is the meat market so I believe the gallery space is still the best place to experience the art.
3. ArtRooms is a great concept. The fact that there is no fee for the space means artists are freer to exhibit works that they may otherwise decide to leave in the studio, the braver pieces. This encouraged me as I have always had trouble reconciling the financial stresses with the creative instinct. I believe ArtRooms’ approach is much more sympathetic towards the artist. If selected, I look forward to engaging with the public and other artists about my work, experiencing my peers’ work in the environment of the art fair and, fingers crossed, selling some work.
4. There have been moments when I have viewed my work with the opinion of a buying public in mind and this has upset me. As my practice is so heavily based in the expression of emotion I am concerned that any tendency towards manipulating the work for sales would destroy the sincerity. However, with the unique way that ArtRooms is structured I don’t feel any pressure to curb my creativity for the masses.