Art fairs: a chance to catch rising starts early


As the number of art fairs grows, some of them are dreaming up new was to make a visit to an art fair a memorable and interactive experience.

At the Other Art Fair in London earlier this year, visitors were given the task of secretly scrawling graffiti on a designated work of art.

“The idea behind that was to change different people’s experiences of coming in and engaging with an art fair. It was incredibly well received – thankfully no other works than the one we planted was actually damaged!” says the fair’s organiser Ryan Stanier.

“I’m quite passionate about is creating quite a nice experience for the visitor. I think historically an art fair would be rows upon rows of galleries or artists exhibiting the work, which is really just a sales platform.

“I think visitors now expect a lot more – it’s very much a day out. There are so many fairs now so it’s quite competitive, and it’s important from our perspective to have lots of other things going on, from a section called Kids Create to a taxidermy workshop.”

The Other Art Fair was set up with young professionals in mind – people who have just bought their first house or moved in with a partner, and are looking to purchase their first piece of work. With this in mind, the fair was pitched at the affordable end of the market.

However, as the fair has grown, Stanier has started to see some well-known collectors attending. This is not surprising when you consider that the selection committee is headed by Tracy Emin (who also took a stall at this year’s fair) and has helped launch the careers of a number of successful artists.

Ernesto Canovas, for instance, showed at the fair three times, where he offered his paintings for about £1,500 each. He then got picked up by the Halcyon gallery in Mayfair, where he recently held a successful solo show, selling works for in excess of £10,000 each.

“It just shows the potential of the fair for people are looking to buy for investment,” says Stanier. “It’s still  a bit of lottery but if you do a bit of homework and look into the history of the artist and see their career progression, then that’s the best way to look at it.”

When deciding what to buy, his advice is never to lose touch with your own taste.

“’Buy what you like’ is an age old piece of advice but I would go a bit further than that and say that the fair is about buying from artists you connect with and you like – that’s really what creates quite a different experience when you come to our fair. You’re not being sold to by a salesperson from a gallery, and the majority of artists are not really sales people so that’s not their intention – they are more interested in talking about the work.”

“This is something we launched this year – the idea was that as a fair that supports artists we wanted to create a platform that would support them throughout the year, not just for three and a half days at a fair,” says Stanier. “This year all the artists that participated in the fair will have a profile in the shop.”

Ryan Stanier

Ryan Stanier