Like some sort of urban-rave jungle, the entrance to The Other Art Fair is marked with a dense canopy of shiny helium balloons, making two points obvious from the get-go: that this was not only a celebration of talent but also a significant anniversary, as the event marks its tenth show since opening its doors in 2011. Emerging from beneath the balloons into the bright exhibition space of the Old Truman Brewery, I felt like an intrepid explorer of all things exciting and contemporary.
And contemporary is the optimum word here, as — even though the term generally refers to any artwork created post World War II — some of the fair’s artwork is created before the onlookers very eyes, such as the ‘Jealous’ print studio, making affordable, limited edition silkscreen prints in a miniature studio on site. On top of this, many of the artists were there in person, selling and discussing their work firsthand to create a unique buying experience as opposed to the traditional gallery/salesperson spiel that is usually encountered when buying art. By cutting out the middle man, the onlooker is given the freedom to ask more unusual questions about the art and learn more about its origins before committing to a sale; a refreshing reminder that a work of art is not an everyday purchase, but is a complex, non-verbal expression of personality and soul.
The 130 exhibitors were chosen by a committee for their potential, ability and accessibility, and boast a veritable feast of different styles and mediums of art. Catering for tastes both serious and playful, sculpture, photography, painting, and print are all present under one roof whilst no fields — from the highly abstract to more realistic styles — feel under-represented. From an accessibility standpoint, the prices do tend to vary, depending on how much you are willing to spend, however this doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank. This also goes for size — if you have a large wall space that is crying out for a controversial talking point then maybe a seven foot, crucified storm trooper could be for you, courtesy of artist Ryan Callanan; however if you are just after a small memento, one of Roy’s People sitting pretty on a bottle cap will only set you back about twenty five pounds.
Thanks to the long opening hours and variety of refreshments available (from both the Monkshood cafe, and the Tint and Shade bar), the fair can either be enjoyed over a coffee in the morning or wine in the evenings, although drink snobs beware: it will be served to you in a paper cup. You have been warned. ∎
The Other Art Fair is set to return to Victoria House in 2016, however in the meantime it can be found in other destinations around the world and all art can be purchased on the website: http://www.theotherartfair.com
(Editorial photography: Steph Dye for Bubbobar; cover photo: via The Other Art Fair’s Facebook Page)