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An Interview with The Other Art Fair

29 August 2017 | Nicola Freedman

Now in its sixth year, The Other Art Fair is gaining a mass following and reputation as one of the most important art fairs in the UK and abroad. Championing the best emerging artists across the country, and providing the public with the chance to purchase affordable art, it is no surprise that they are expanding at an alarming rate, with fairs now held around the world, from New York to Sydney. With the third edition of their Bristol show taking place this weekend (1-3 September), we speak to fair manager Jessica Chow about changes to traditional art buying and selling, the impact of Instagram, and why Bristol is a hotbed of artistic talent.

Culture Calling: Hi Jessica, can you start off by telling us a bit about The Other Art Fair and what inspired its launch?
 
Of course! The Other Art Fair is an art fair for emerging and unrepresented artists, launched in 2011 in London by our fair's director and founder, Ryan [Stanier]. He had found that several of his artist friends found it really hard to get noticed and make it, and at the same time he also had friends who were buying new houses and looking to buy artwork, but didn't really know where to get it. So he came up with the idea of The Other Art Fair where people can come and buy directly from the artist rather than buying through a gallery. From then it’s just taken off really, and we now do two fairs per year - one in London and one in Bristol. We also launched in New York, Melbourne and Sydney this year.


Image credit: The Other Arts Fair

Is it the absence of a middleman that makes The Other Art Fair different to the plethora of art fairs held across the country?
 
Yes, I think most art fairs are gallery led, so they visit galleries, but we really champion the individual artist, and it really makes the art buying experience a more personal and less intimidating experience for visitors. Just buying directly from the artist is quite special.
 
With the rise of social media, we are seeing an increasing amount of artists exhibit and even sell their works through online platforms such as Instagram. What do you make of this trend? Does it affect the nature of The Other Arts Fair or how its run?
 
I actually think it’s really great, and its worked well for the fair. As the artists exhibit at the fair they really take their own careers into their own hands, which kind of complements them exhibiting at the fair and then making themselves exhibited. We also partner with Saatchi Art who are an online platform, so we represent the physical there, and for the rest of the year the artist can sell online and sell through Saatchi Art.
 
Has Saatchi Art's support facilitated the development and growth of TOAF?
 
Yes it has. Within the last year, about a year ago, they've been really supportive of the fair and helping us with that.
 

Image credit: The Other Arts Fair

Given the economic uncertainty of today's society, do you find that there is still a demand to buy and own original art pieces?
 
Definitely! We've found that at every fair there are new visitors who have never visited an art fair before, who've never purchased a piece of art before. Also, because you can buy at the fair, prices start from about £50 so it’s really accessible. Even in the economic climate we've found that our artists are still doing really well.
 
I'm glad to hear! Do you find there is also an international demand for the work of British artists?
 
Yes, especially now that we have been working with Saatchi Art, which started off with some in the UK Fair, and now Saatchi Art are selling a lot more to New York and Asia, which is all done online.
 
TOAF focuses on the new generation of art buyers. How would you say they differ to past generations?
 
I guess we try to encourage the general public to come to an art fair, people who haven't gone to the more traditional art fairs like Frieze. You can come along to our fair and there are a lot of different features going on as well, so it's just a less intimidating affair, which encourages more people to come.


Image credit: The Other Arts Fair

Your upcoming fair is being held in Bristol. Over the past several years Bristol has developed a reputation as one of the UK's leading creative cities, attracting artists around the country and abroad. Given the city's artistic and cultural ambition, do you find Bristolians particularly receptive to this initiative?
 
Definitely. I think Bristol is such a historically cultural city, there is so much street art, and they really support the local community as well, which really fits in with the ethos of the fair in supporting emerging artists. They have been very receptive – last year we had just over 5000 visitors in Bristol, and we are hoping to get more this year!
 
Going forward, how do you hope to see The Other Art Fair progress?  
 
We're hoping to be a platform for emerging artists and really part of that is so that they can represent themselves and sell work. We also provide the visitors with a place that they know they can go to, to buy accessible and affordable art.       
 
Finally, how would you describe the state of UK's current arts and cultural scene?
 
Exciting, still growing and globally expanding. 
 
 

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