Only in its second year, the Other Art Fair offers a selection of one hundred artists who do not currently have gallery representation the chance to exhibit their work. In turn, Londoners get the chance to ‘buy direct from the artist’ -- an alternative to the swanky international art fairs. Other than not being gallery-led, the crucial difference between this and Frieze, The London Art Fair, or the Affordable Art Fair, is real pocket-accessibility; prices here begin at £50, so the average art lover is genuinely able to buy. In this case accessibility also relates to the Fair's target audience, in the sense that the artists are here, and they are happy to see you, in the London art scene with its widening cynicism and in-fighting.
Art fairs are tricky beasts though. Their downside is that there is always so much on display that the viewer suffers somewhat from sensory overload, and the format often does an injustice to the art works’ true value. And there’s another element particular to the Other Art Fair: pieces on display were chosen by the artists themselves as their best works, rather than being edited by a commercially-minded gallery. Artists are famously reluctant to sell certain works, especially their favourites, hence there is a interesting flavour to what you see here.
Dan-Hillier, In the Town House1; Courtesy of the Artist and Ambika P3
One highlight for me was Marcel Ceuppens’s Everyman collection, a series of graphic, digital drawings in which a faceless businessman moves between equally homogeneous office blocks and stylised landscapes. There is a strong Magritte influence here, but it conveys the terminal sense of isolation felt as a worker in a big city – and, in a trite kind of way, as an artist in an art fair. One work, The Marketing Department, shows the faceless protagonist figure duplicated and marching with a briefcase reminiscent of that which holds the annual Budget, another ironic poke at the banker’s expense.
Another recommended find was Mark Powell’s selection of biro portraits of ageing faces on vintage envelopes. These intricate works convey a duality between the stories once contained within the envelopes and the personal histories lived. These kinds of works tend to get engulfed by louder, gimmicky works within the bustle of the fair, but to me Powell was of the most technically accomplished artists on show.
Lennie Lee; Courtesy of the Artist and Ambika P3
The Other Art Fair fills a gap in the growing fair market, which has proselytised much in the same way that music festivals in the UK have in recent years. There’s also a bit more fun to be had with the selection of works, and you’ll find everything here from elaborate Arabian cityscapes to a meta-art fair, to interactive six-foot models of masturbating giraffes. Most of the works, though, are quite forgettable, as is its format, making this, perhaps, just an Other Art Fair.
(Image on top right: Ilona Szalay, Hide; Courtesy of the Artist and Ambika P3)