When you walk past the kilometer of curry joints on Brick Lane, or contemplate the compulsive repetitiveness of London’s high street stores, it’s perpetually perplexing: how do all those retailers selling the exact same products at the exact same rates survive side by side? It’s the corollary of the consumer market, of course: supply and demand.
By the same token, Frieze London has propagated a flux of consumer art fairs, therefore we must only assume there is a market as such. Satellite fairs have popped up around the city because people are coming.
That’s the eternal conundrum in evaluating these fairs, as really they’re nothing more than trade shows for buyers, and at best, directories for curators and artists. Yet here we are again, and we can’t ignore this epic bombardment of saleable art over four days in mid October, staunchly cynical as we might be.
This year at least to make negotiating the endless events a little easier, two of the most prominent alternative art fairs, Moniker and The Other Art Fair, share the same venue, at the Truman Brewery, the eleven-acre site of warehouses, bars and shops synonymous with East London.
Bridget Davies, 'Rose', 44x52cm, Limited edition print (sold); Courtesy of the artist, at The Other Art Fair.
Moniker: A Quick Glimpse
Though lacking in scope, bringing only sixteen galleries (and only one real key player among them, Stolenspace) and only from London, the Netherlands and a desultory appearance from a space in Thailand, Moniker is careful in how it presents itself. It is, in essence, a ‘street art’ fair, but they are careful to avoid those terms in the PR, by using evasive terms like ‘urban culture’. Which ultimately seems silly in this most commercial context – call a spade a spade, especially when the promotion is centered around the names ‘Shepard Fairey’ and ‘D*Face’.
Moniker is not by any means expansive enough yet to really be a serious presentation of any genre of art, and the guise of affordability is also tenuous.
This being said, the fair is only in its fourth year, and with time it could fill a real niche of interest for visitors, buyers and curators, as the consumption of this kind of art is at an all time high – they just need to bring in some more decent galleries.
Ego Leonard, The Money Laundrette; Courtesy of St. Art Gallery, at Moniker Art Fair.
The Other Art Fair: A Quick Glimpse
Moving East is a more significant move for the Other Art Fair, and all part of a plan of contextualizing itself better for the market. The Other Art Fair wants to be a showcase of emerging art presented in a more accessible way.
It’s not doing a bad job of it: there is a genuine range of art and they have good spin-off events, workshops and talks, making it a good platform for people other than buyers to get ideas – it has more of the feel of a conference than a mall. It’s probably down to the way they collaborate with advisors, being more selective in what they bring together.
The fact TOAF allows underrepresented artists to sell their work is also a positive aspect; the fair is propelled by artists rather than galleries, something that does set it apart.
Nicole Furman, Hommage a Mondrian, 2013, C-Print (underlying- body paint & mixed media), Limited edition of 5 prints, 53 x 80cm, 105 x 160cm; Courtesy of the artist, at The Other Art Fair.
Ultimately, it’s always sad to see art turned so callously into product; of course it’s part of it all, but it just isn’t the most enjoyable way to engage with art. Visiting a fair isn’t totally a bad thing – it is about sustaining a market – but then, they don’t really exist for us critics...
(Image on top: The London Police, Towers of Justice; Courtesy of Look For Art, at Moniker Art Fair)