Monday, April 2, 2018

The Other Art Fair and Interior Decorating

I was an exhibitor at The Other Art Fair, Sydney, held on 22-25 March in the exhibition hall of the Advanced Technology Park near Redfern station. The organiser is Saatchi Art, an organisation that now has no connection with Charles Saatchi, though he was involved early on; later he sued them to stop them using his name. The point of difference of The Other Art Fair is that there are no gallerists or dealers in the stands, only artists showing their own works.

There was an application process for the fair; I could not get any sense of how rigorous the selection was. I looked at a few CVs, and from what I could see the artists selected were reasonably established in terms of holding solo exhibitions and being finalists in prizes. The publicity for the fair had a relentlessly young and funky vibe, and many of the artists were youngish, but I certainly wasn't the only one there with grey (or white) hair, so the selection wasn't too dependent on age.

The Fair brought home to me just how much the art world is part of the interior decoration industry, both domestic and corporate. I thought about a spectrum of artists and artistic endeavour. At one end are the artists who are exploring, extending their practice, engaged in what I think of as a conversation with the history of art and with a wide range of influences from within the artworld and outside it. I call this the exploratory end of the spectrum. At the other extreme is the purely commercial end, where the artist develops a formula that isn't going to upset anyone (stylised landscapes, swoopy abstracts, cute figures, soft-focus nudes), sticks to the formula and produces in quantity. Some artists have two practices at different places on the spectrum: for example, a ceramicist might produce a line of simple pieces for sale as well as making more "difficult" experimental works.

The art fair made me realise that the artists I have met have generally been near the exploratory end of the spectrum, which is not surprising considering that I have been studying in a postgraduate University environment. There was a range at the art fair, including quite a lot of very formulaic work as well as some that was more towards the exploratory end.

There were many large works at the fair, which surprised me, as the visitors were largely people looking to buy things for their houses. I was naughtily reminded of the supposed art-school graffito: "If it isn't working, make it BIG! If it still isn't working, make it RED!" But quite a few big paintings sold, so maybe people have big walls.

I wasn't the only person exhibiting computer-generated work: Grant Stewart showed work made by a drawing machine he had constructed that is controlled by a small computer (an Arduino), and he had the machine there and in action as well.

I have never participated in an art fair before, and I didn't know what to expect. For me it wasn't a success: it cost me quite a lot in time, money and effort, and I sold very little. Apparently some gallerists and curators visited the fair, but none made themselves known to me. However, some of the other artists at the fair sold well, and I don't blame Saatchi Art for my lack of success. But I don't expect to do it again.







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