Ok I’ve slept on London’s Frieze and Affordable Art art fairs…
…So its true, there was an element of me being tired at AAF after looking at Frieze, along with the fairs connected…and it is true I was definitely more absorbed by these.
For me now though, there was also an element of being personally aware, in the light of so much seemingly not-so-obvious commercial art at Frieze, of NOT dismissing the art here, simply because of its more obviously commercial context by becoming an inverted-art-snob.
Price is the key here; the Affordable Art remit for prices are from £400 to £4000. No more, no less.
And I certainly found more than a couple of galleries and artists at AAF who I really liked a lot. And true this style and content of fair did seem more pret-a-porter-high-street than the *high* art of Frieze. Or at least more as a stall geared up ready to sell, with efficient take away wrapping service provided.
But the twist, I think, was some of the art was definitely more interesting than say, some of the more *sure-and-safe* big-bucks work I saw at Frieze.
The obvious conclusion is, that art wise it shows a more high street version of the Frieze style….
For example a current trend was far more obvious at AAF.. in a fashion analogy it could be seen as an complete haute couture, unwearable-in-most-circumstances, fine lace dress, that would be shown during fashion week, instead being represented, by a rash of a hundred or so wearable dresses with equally fine lace adorned collars and cuffs …the detail all maxed out.
That isn’t to say the works were not art in their own right. Just that the art here was more prone to the obvious add-on bells and whistles of content style and technique.
That said, some less obvious and also refreshing work was present by artists of all ages and reputations, for whatever reason, who possibly hadn’t yet been *noticed* or whose works were not represented by the *kudos* of usually exclusive city-centric galleries (….the type who are interested in, and can afford, the off-the-scale space rental of Frieze).
With subtle differences in styles and content at AAF, a lot of the art shown, represented with no less kudos of equally well respected European and London galleries, including the few out lying UK galleries present, was less subtle. Showing art here that is different, certainly seems to stand out from the overall at AAF.
And it is certainly not as simple as lazily categorising it as a reduced version of *haute-art* nor calling it a blatant Zara of the art world:
Stating the obvious I know… but as with larger fairs, I found you certainly had to look, because the nature them, big or small, is to capture, in a non-contemplative environment for a very small window of time, a whole host of businesses to one degree or another bent on spotting a customer sale.
In that way Frieze visitors differ from AAF. Frieze is there to-be-seen-for-business kudos as well as the business it attracts. The larger crowd who venture to Regents Park’s Frieze are in general, people who are perhaps more touristy, even art-savvy, whether voyeuristic-student, in the business or artists themselves, all this aside from the obvious and the not-so-obvious buyers.
AAF definitely has less of these, and I certainly saw no one on their phone conducting a mega buck sale for a client. It seemed to attract Sloane’s London and Surrey’s National Trust crowd, on a family-day-out. Able indeed to spend upwards of £400 on a piece of art not necessarily previously seen… an impulse buy if you like… If it wasn’t such a sunny – but not so warm October day, blankets, picnic baskets and a possible low-key-champers lunch in the park might have been more in evidence..). But maybe that is less Battersea Park and more suited for the first AAF at Hampstead Heath next weekend…
Art for your family mantle piece perhaps, rather than the full-on accepted art for art sake, of pure-investment by the more commercially minded buyers of Frieze.
And from that point of view, the genuine *I like that I’m going to buy it* approach of AAF is spot on. Unfortunately in accepting more adventurous art, there is perhaps a slower pace of enthusiasm and intake. So the price tag can, though certainly not always, come with safe-bet sea or landscapes, or cat, cow, horse or butterfly, kitschy on-trend tickets.