The Price Is Right(ish)

Back in early March, in the lead up to The Other Art Fair, I mentioned that my prices were to increase and that in due course I would offer a more in depth explanation. Admittedly I had intended to do so rather sooner than this, but for one reason or another it’s taken me until now to get something down on paper (screen).

The changes I have implemented have been to increase the prices of my unique works (I.e. one off paintings that are not part of an edition) from 5 pence to 20 pence per square centimetre. Paintings made in limited editions will remain at the original rate. In addition, I have made a minor adjustment to the wording of the system for the purposes of clarity, so the sterling price of a painting is now calculated as follows:

(height in cm X width in cm) x 0.2 = Sterling price

Prices are rounded to the nearest £10

The minimum price for any individual painting is £100.

It has taken significant thought to reach this point and the adjustment has been made taking various factors into consideration. As I have explained previously, my pricing structure is an important part of my approach to putting my work out into the world. It is critical to me that, as long as I am deciding my prices, I retain the defining factors of accessibility and the transparency. Although a fourfold increase is certainly not insignificant, I am committed to keeping my limited edition paintings as accessible as they have been. Furthermore, I am still using a clear and openly shared formula to price my work to ensure there is no uncertainty and no threat of ‘predatory pricing’.

A number of reasons have lead me to raise my prices. Thankfully the vast majority are positive, but I will admit there have been one or two influences which I find myself tolerating rather than embracing. Let’s start with the good things though. As I mentioned back in March, over the twelve months leading up to that point interest in and exposure of my work had increased significantly, and I’m very happy to report that this trend has continued since. I’m looking forward to being involved in various exhibitions in the coming months and am thrilled to have recently joined the stable of Atlantic Contemporary, an exciting new curatorial team and art dealer in the North of England. Of course I will be advising you on the various projects and shows with greater specificity as and when they occur, but for now I can say that I am very happy and flattered by the interest that’s coming my way.

Again, as I mentioned before the advice I have received from artists, collectors, gallerists and others in the industry has been unanimous in suggesting my work is worth more than I have been charging for it. Again, this is very encouraging to hear and although it has taken time I have come round to the idea that such a consensus of opinion does carry weight. And this has gone to help me look at my work in a slightly different way – with an increased confidence and assurance that the time, experience, skill and thought that goes into it justifies asking a bit more money for the paintings I make. I can’t say I feel entirely comfortable doing so, but I do at least feel more justified.

So, there is a good deal of positivity behind my price adjustment, but as I mentioned other, less palatable factors have come to light which, reluctantly, I feel I have to take into account. Vague and arbitrary as the vast majority of art pricing is, nevertheless it is true that, lacking a better or more understandable value structure, many people use a price tag to assess the quality of an artwork. Most of the time that doesn’t make any sense, particularly in the case of the vast amount of work existing outside the tiny “dealers’ market” which, with its insider trading and artificial price hiking, offers a ridiculously unhelpful template for independent artists struggling to get a handle on what to ask for what they make. Still, it’s clear that although pricing my work the way I have been keeps it accessible, paradoxically it can also be a deterrent to potential clients. Seems crazy, but I have heard high level gallerists explain that whilst they couldn’t sell a work at one price, by doubling it, they shifted the piece instantly. There isn’t much to like about that, but it’s from the horse’s mouth. Similarly I have spoken to gallerists who explained that although they liked a certain artist’s work a great deal, the prices that the artist set themselves were too low for it to be worth taking them on. Now this seems a bit daft to me as any successful or experienced gallerist would surely be able to make suggestions to an artist and adjust prices of any work they chose to exhibit based on their superior knowledge of the market, their clients and their business, however, this again comes from a genuine conversation, and cannot be dismissed out of hand.

So, I hope that gives you a decent idea of where my decision to raise prices has come from. As I say, it’s not something I’m entirely at peace with, but in light of the evidence I think it makes sense. It’s hard to balance the influence of the market with the reservations I have about it, and my belief that price levels in general will drop, however, although my feelings are mixed, what I won’t do is apologise for charging a bit more for my paintings because I believe the change to be justifiable.


I’m flattered to have been invited to show work in Headcleaner, a group exhibition at TOMA Project Space, Southend-on-Sea, curated by Ian Segrave. The show focuses on the “obsessive daily practice of painting” – which is certainly something I’m familiar with! The PV is Saturday June 23rd so please do come down and say hi! All details below. Drop me an email for more info.

Headcleaner Final2 insta

The Other Art Fair


The Other Art Fair, London, will soon be upon us and I’m pleased to say I have a few complimentary tickets to distribute. If you would like to come and see my new work at the fair, which will include the largest painting I have made to date, then please do email me to request a ticket or feel free to use the code above.

Here’s a new painting that I’ll be taking to the fair to whet your appetite:

A metaphorical exchange of cards. 2018 Acrylic ink, Indian ink & emulsion on board 80.0 x 60.0cm

A metaphorical exchange of cards.
Acrylic ink, Indian ink & emulsion on board
80.0 x 60.0cm

New paintings from MERGE

Below are my most recent works, which were exhibited alongside the work of Markus Davies in MERGE, an exhibition at Jeannie Avent Gallery, London.

Woohoo! What’s next? 2017 Ink & emulsion on board 80.0 x 60.0cm

Woohoo! What’s next?
Ink & emulsion on board
80.0 x 60.0cm

We’re on your TV, and killing your fish. 2017 Ink & emulsion on board 80.0 x 60.0cm

We’re on your TV, and killing your fish.
Ink & emulsion on board
80.0 x 60.0cm

Taking today what tomorrow never brings. 2017/18 Ink & emulsion on board 80.0 x 60.0cm

Taking today what tomorrow never brings.
Ink & emulsion on board
80.0 x 60.0cm

As brittle as a wishbone. 2017/18 Ink, emulsion & tempera on board 80.0 x 60.0cm

As brittle as a wishbone.
Ink, emulsion & tempera on board
80.0 x 60.0cm

I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. XV 2017 Ink & emulsion on board 48.0 x 40.0cm

I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. XV
Ink & emulsion on board
48.0 x 40.0cm




I’m very happy to announce that I have recently joined the Artcan group.

“ArtCan is a charitable arts organisation that supports artists through profile raising activities and exhibitions, an open network of ‘likeminded’ peers, and practical support structures”. Read more about this great project at

Paintings from Snake Oil

I’ve finally got around to adding the new paintings at were recently exhibited in my 2 person show Snake Oil at the Lewisham Arthouse Gallery:

Smile, please smile. (after Blomkamp) 2017 Oil, tempera & ink on board 122.0 x 80.0cm

Smile, please smile. (after Blomkamp)
Oil, tempera & ink on board
122.0 x 80.0cm

His cold, indifferent, indigo charms. (After Blomkamp) 2017 Oil, tempera & ink on board 122.0 x 80.0cm

His cold, indifferent, indigo charms. (After Blomkamp)
Oil, tempera & ink on board
122.0 x 80.0cm

I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. (After Blomkamp) Ink & emulsion on board 122.0 x 80.0cm X 20.5cm

I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. (After Blomkamp)
Ink & emulsion on board
122.0 x 80.0cm X 20.5cm

Ain't it strange, the things we do to feel alright? (After Blomkamp) 2017 Oil, tempera & emulsion on board 122.0 x 80.0cm

Ain’t it strange, the things we do to feel alright? (After Blomkamp)
Oil, tempera & emulsion on board
122.0 x 80.0cm

Nobody wants to hear about your hardwood floors. (After Blomkamp) 2017 Oil, tempera & emulsion on board 122.0 x 80.0cm

Nobody wants to hear about your hardwood floors. (After Blomkamp)
Oil, tempera & emulsion on board
122.0 x 80.0cm

The man who was too nice to die. IV 2017 Emulsion & tempera on board 140.0 x 93.3cm

The man who was too nice to die. IV
Emulsion & tempera on board
140.0 x 93.3cm

When they drilled holes in your skull, and screwed that halo to your head, did you think you could fly? 2017 Oil on canvas 52.5 x 42.0cm

When they drilled holes in your skull, and screwed that halo to your head, did you think you could fly?
Oil on canvas
52.5 x 42.0cm

In the chemical light. I a 2017 Ink & emulsion on canvas 47.8 x 38.0cm

In the chemical light. I a
Ink & emulsion on canvas
47.8 x 38.0cm

In the chemical light. I b 2017 Ink & emulsion on canvas 47.8 x 38.0cm

In the chemical light. I b
Ink & emulsion on canvas
47.8 x 38.0cm

In the chemical light. I c 2017 Ink & emulsion on canvas 47.8 x 38.0cm

In the chemical light. I c
Ink & emulsion on canvas
47.8 x 38.0cm

Young Space & ArtRooms

Youngspace logoArtRooms  logo

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 and 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.

Interview questions

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?


Felix Baudenbacher

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.

Felix Baudenbacher 1

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.

Felix Baudenbacher 3

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.


Dave Farnham

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!

Dave farnham 12. 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.

Dave farnham 2

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.

Dave farnham 3

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.


Leanna Moran

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.

LEANNA MORAN 12. 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.

Hanna ten Doornkaat

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.

Hanna tenDoornkaat 1

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.

Hanna tenDoornkaat 2

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.

Hanna tenDoornkaat 3

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.


Alex Wilmott

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.

Alex Wilmott 12. 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.

Alex Wilmott 23. 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.

Alex Wilmott 3

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.


The Art Car Boot Fair

I recently visited with Art Car Boot Fair and was so impressed with the event that I am compelled to commit some thoughts to paper (screen). For those unfamiliar, the Art Car Boot Fair is a one day art fair based in London that has been running since 2004. To quote their website “The idea is simply that the artists show up in person to flog their specially made just-for-the-day wares.”. This is true, but is an over simplification and, in my opinion, desperately understates the importance of the event for the artists involved and as a key alternative to the accepted art world establishment.

The presentation is pretty much exactly as the title suggests – it’s set up just like a car boot fair, complete with rickety tressel tables, cheap garden pergolas and, literally, car boots (or trunks to those of you reading this in the USA). It is unpretentious and without ego or affectation. The event is sponsored by car manufacturer Vauxhall, and although this is made quite clear, the commercial sponsorship fits well. It is present, but not overbearing. But the great thing about the sponsorship is that “unlike any other art fair, there is no financial transaction between the artist and the organisers. They simply show up and take what they make. The project is run on a sponsorship model and as well as funding the event Vauxhall also provide production funds…”. That’s right. The artists get to take home all the money they make. I’ve certainly never come across a deal quite like it. I’d call it trail blazing in its inception back in 2004 and in its ongoing support for independent artists. Take that 50% gallery commission!

Of course it doesn’t look exactly like a car boot sale. It looks like one that’s been put on by artists, because that’s what it is, so there’s all manner of elaborate displays, props, costumes, and just craziness in general. It’s utterly packed out (I understand people were queueing up almost 24 hours before it opened) and heaving all day, but also very child friendly. I took my 5 year old daughter and there were various creative activities for her to try out and lots of unusual stuff to keep her interested and entertained. Admittedly there were moments when parental censorship was necessary, but that’s what happens when the content of any one artist’s stand is entirely down to them. An absence of creative censorship is to be applauded. And anyway, we’re liberal artists darling. Live and let live. There was food & drink, live music and just a fantastic atmosphere overall.

So, queues not withstanding, a really great day out for the casual punter. But this is just a small part of the event’s significant value. In my opinion it’s deepest importance is what it offers the participating artists, and in particular those emerging artists working hard to achieve some success and recognition. There were various ‘household name’ participants who have been present most years. The likes of Gavin Turk and Peter Blake are regulars. Other big names were present, such as Bruce McClean, Polly Morgan, Vic Reeves and Bip Ling, and there were more. There were other successful artists whose names are perhaps less well known too, and then there were those to whom I would assume the event offered most – those relatively early in their careers, working to reach that elusive point when they can truly survive as artists. The great thing is that the Art Car Boot Fair offers them this opportunity – to participate in an event of significant scale and repute, working on an entirely equal footing with some very high profile people. It felt democratic. Gavin Turk’s stand was no larger or more polished than anyone else’s. Vic Reeves was sat under an awning and had propped his paintings up on a table and around the floor, in just the same way everyone else had. It really felt like it was all on a single level and I consider that a real triumph of equality – something that is in desperately short supply in the art world.

For the art loving public one of the main draws of the ACBF must surely be the accessibility of the work. In general things are priced well below what one would consider the accepted norm for the art market. Even works by bigger name artists sit at a price point well below what would be generally expected. Again, a fantastic approach and something for which the event has become known. Whether this was originally the intention of the organisers, or if the participants have, over the years, taken it upon themselves to initiate and perpetuate this approach, I honestly don’t know, but genuinely, often unusually affordable art is now synonymous with the fair. On most levels it’s great. We came away with 5 pieces, including the very first painting in my daughter’s own personal collection, all for a total of £40. Bargain. There was work priced as high as £3000 and as little as a fiver, but for the most part prices I saw rarely crept above £200 and were usually below £100. It gives anyone at all the opportunity to be an art collector.

As I say, this is good on most levels, but as you may have guessed I do feel there are certain drawbacks. Needless to say I’m all in favour of affordable art. The way I see it, the difficulty comes when artists whose work is highly collectible offer pieces at a much lower price than they would ordinarily be, particularly in this arena. I understand they do so in good faith and that it is arguably a defining feature of the fair, but inevitably the names and prices end up attracting low level ‘flippers’ – the equivalent to ticket touts – drawn in by the opportunity to make a bit of quick cash out of a big name. They go there to buy at the low price with the express intention of immediately selling on at a heavily inflated price, eBay being the general conduit through which to achieve this (case in point, as I write this 3 or 4 copies of Harland Miller’s Hate’s outa date postcard sized print, released at something like £250, are being offered at £3,700 just a week after the fair). There’s little to be done about this though. It’s first come, first served and those prepared to queue a whole day in advance will get the goodies. It just seems sad that like so many worthy causes, this well meaning approach can be easily undermined and abused by those with less lofty ideals, and that the beneficiaries of a good intention are often those looking to exploit it. Still, this is the basis of a capitalist business – buy at one price, sell higher. There’s little point moaning too much about something that cannot really be controlled. Think of it as unavoidably irksome in an otherwise very fulfilling scenario.

However the second drawback can be addressed. Going around the fair, I saw a mix of quality, speaking as objectively as I can. There was a fair bit of stuff I really liked. There was also plenty that, although it didn’t appeal to my personal aesthetic, was still clearly of good quality, which I can appreciate. Then there was stuff which I didn’t like and that appeared poorly or lazily made, and that I cannot endorse.

Physically the ACBF is a relatively small fair. No doubt there are many, many artists who would love to be involved, but are not (count me among their number). There are comparatively very few indeed fortunate enough to be offered a pitch. It is my opinion that those who are have a responsibility to bring with them work of a quality befitting the privileged status they are so fortunate to have been offered. My concern is that some artists invited to take a stand at the ACBF see the opportunity to sell lots at cheap prices as justification to produce ephemeral work quickly, carelessly, even disrespectfully. I saw a fair amount of work that appeared dashed off and as a result spoke of the artist’s apparent disdain for the event and those attending. It suggested an attitude that because it’s ‘art’ and it’s affordable, it somehow doesn’t matter that, frankly, it just isn’t that good.

One of the great things about the ACBF is the freedom it offers artists. No stand fee. No commission. No restriction on content (to the best of my knowledge). If you’re in, you more or less have carte blanche to present what you like to a large and very receptive audience. A rare opportunity indeed. Because of its inclusive, democratic, accessible, equal opportunity, establishment-alternative approach, it is unique and in my opinion is to be considered a national institution. However it is all these great qualities that render it open to abuse. I believe that any artist participating in the ACBF has a duty of care to do the very best they can for themselves and for the event, and that means making and presenting work of the highest quality they’re able. Ironically it is by not treating it like a car boot sale – an opportunity to flog all their unwanted old gear – that they can best serve both the fair and themselves. This event is built on a grand and worthy idea, but it lives and dies on the content, and that’s down to the artists. If, year on year, visitors perceive a drop in quality or a lack of effort on the part of the participants, they will stop coming, and that would be inexcusable. As it stands, the ACBF is a fantastic opportunity for artists to make some cash and some contacts, but it can only remain so if the content of the show as a whole aspires to the same high principles as the event itself. There can be no excuses.

I should conclude by saying that despite the concerns highlighted in that penultimate paragraph, they are minimal compared with the huge amount of exciting, interesting and great quality work to I saw, and my overwhelmingly positive response to it. I enjoyed the great work on the Turps Banana and Turps Alumni stands, a strange and fascinating performance/live art making thing with Bruce McLean going on with Worton Hall Studios, excellent individual artists like Geraldine Swayne, Frea Buckler, Bob & Roberta Smith and Ivan Black, live pulling of Billy Childish woodcuts with L13 Light Industrial Workshop and a bunch more besides. I honestly can’t wait to go again next year and have no doubt it will once again be a triumph. If you’ve not been before, you must. And if you have, well, you must again!