We Londoners usually know when the circus is in town, and this month it’s all about buying art, with the big guns out the first weekend in Regent’s Park for Frieze. The annual art fair was packed as usual with high-rollers jetting in to be first in the queue for outrageously sought-after pieces.
If that wasn’t your scene, you might prefer the Affordable Art Fair (AAF), which is setting out its autumn wares in Battersea Park next weekend. The vibe is more conducive to a meander, a chance to peruse and ponder. Rather than betting thousands on finding the next Basquiat, you can spend under a grand on a work that lights up your life every day.
“The talent is there, you don’t need to worry about the price,” as the AAF founder Will Ramsay says. By this he means that the average spend at AAF is £700, and for that you can buy quality, from established and emerging artists. Editions and etchings cost from £100 upwards; unique works, such as paintings, are £500-plus.
Ramsay illustrates the art market thus: if the top tier of artists command premium prices, it is because of scarcity, reputation or both. “Only five per cent of graduates will make this grade,” he says, but that doesn’t mean the rest aren’t talented. They could have just created your favourite piece of art. “You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy great art.”
AAF is really a festival of art (twice a year at Battersea, once in Hampstead, and fairs across the world, from New York to Stockholm). The UK fairs alone grossed £12.76m last year. “It is very challenging to be an artist full time,” Ramsay says. “So the more we can support our galleries and their artists, the more we can support this art ecosystem.”
You just need to buy what you love. If it contrasts, then all the better. Ignore trends and follow your heart.
Over the four days of the fair, your ticket gives access to workshops, talks and tips. London Art Salon has the inside track on clever investing; Central St Martins hosts workshops on collage, drawing and how to generate ideas; the curator Andrew Marsh promises to demystify the art market, and tutor and artist Karl Grupe will be helping us plug into Instagram to kickstart a photography collection.
For anyone new to the fair, the interior designer, retailer and author Abigail Ahern has curated a show of her favourite picks, all available to buy from her dedicated space, and all under £500. Her maximalist approach to interior design does away with the rule book. “You don’t need to match your art with your decor,” she says. “You just need to buy what you love. If it contrasts, then all the better. Ignore trends and follow your heart.”
If your home has art already but you want a refresh, then jiggle works around to free up space in a rehang, or cluster them together in a “salon style” hang where they riff off each other. “You can put any artwork anywhere,” Ahern says. “Don’t give yourself restrictions or boundaries.”
AAF is the perfect way to “un-Frieze”, give a new artist a try… and hang the consequences.
Affordable Art Fair is at Battersea Park, 19 to 22 October. Tickets from £10 on the gate, or visit affordableartfair.com