Still smarting from the depressingly posh, red-trouser-wearing ‘Affordable’ (I hope I wrote that in sarcastic enough font) Art Fair, it is with some trepidation that I head to The Other Art Fair. On arrival I am handed a free Sipsmith gin – things are looking up.
The tradesman’s entrance-style route into Ambika P3 on Marylebone Road might make you fear you’ve taken a wrong turn at numerous points but it sets the scene well for the cavernous, industrial interior. Obligatory exposed pipes: check.
Entrance is at ground floor level, here 100 Mothers decorates the only main wall. Artists, including Dinos Chapman, Vic Reeves and Grayson Perry, were supplied with an identical blank canvas on which to represent their mum. Admittedly some wouldn’t look out of place on the tea towel following a similar brief from my primary school but it’s an arresting sight all the same. Stand out, stunningly lifelike, honest portraits from Horace Panter and Beverley Daniels. Like them all? It’s yours for the princely sum of £100,000, all of which goes to the charity of the buyer’s choice.
Downstairs the 100 artists, as chosen by a panel of experts, are displayed very well. Each has their own small space, the lighting is spot on and on my visit there were enough people to create a gallery-style atmosphere but not so many that I wanted to hurt any of them.
Numerous things make up the ‘Other’ element of the fair; live acoustic unsigned music, complimentary curated walks and an interactive art space for kids and adults alike to leave their mark. But most importantly, it is a retrospective of undiscovered artists at which the artists themselves man the stands.
This adds an otherwise unavailable personal touch to proceedings. Being able to stop and tell the person who produced the art that you like it, or that you don’t for that matter, is a rare privilege and in my experience one in which the artists were equally happy to indulge. Of course on the other hand you do keep getting that feeling you get on walking into a shop and realising just too late that a) you don’t want to buy anything and b) this is the livelihood of the person in the corner hopefully eyeing you over half moon glasses.
So subjective is the nature of these events that there were inevitably pieces which weren’t to my taste. The photography, however, was outstanding, three particularly caught my eye. Namely, Vikram Kushwah’s hauntingly beautiful black and white portraits within an old town hall, a venue which he perfectly described to me as reminding him of ‘old England’, Rychel Therin’s simple but captivating exhibit of photographs of everyday items she took in her grandmother’s home days after she died and Megan Revell’s ‘high dynamic range’ urban landscapes.
I also very much enjoyed the intricate uniform paper sculptures of Alberto Fusco, Clinton de Menezes’s 3D landscapes and Soozy Lipsey’s take on the updated Victoriana trend.
For me, this is everything I want from an art fair; unpretentious, welcoming and inclusive. And free gin.
Billetto Presents The Other Art Fair took place 25 – 28 April at:
University of Westminster
35 Marylebone Road