MAKING A MARK: Affordable Art Fair Hampstead 2023: A Synopsis

The main point I’d make about the
Affordable Art Fair Hampstead

which is on Hampstead Heath (about five minutes walk from the Train station is
as follows…..

The stars of the show are emphatically the printmakers.  

Walk past an awful lot of ‘manufactured art’ and head for the
Printmaker Stands where you will find artwork which is both good quality and
affordable – as in affordable to more ordinary mortals.

Art Affordable Art Fair (Hampstead): My Findings

Here’s the criteria for who can get involved in an Affordable Art Fair – all of which are very sensible.

  • All artists must be living.
  • All works must be original, or have an edition of less than the following
    per media:
    • Sculpture – 25;
    • Prints – 200;
    • Photography – 150.
  • All works must be priced under our price ceiling (see
    Exhibitor FAQs
    for more info).
  • Reproductions, even if editioned, are not allowed.

Here’s what I found on my visit on Thursday.

What’s Affordable?

The art fair lacks a definition for “Affordable”. It needs one. In my
opinion, it would get more visitors if it signalled more clearly what the
price range of the artwork on show is

See more undr “What’s Confusing?” below.

What’s Good

The stands organised by groups of Printmakers – including:

  • A7 East London Printmakers (busy all day) Facebook East London Printmakers is a not-for-profit, artist run studio
    based in Mile End. (My other half nearly bought one – we got to the
    unframed versus framed debate). This is an organisation which also
    encourages people to use their studios….
  • D11 Printmakers in Residence (also very busy) – The studio in Bermondsey produces all the
    work by Mychael Barratt and Trevor Price, fellows and respectively the Past President and Vice President of the
    Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Work by other contemporary artists
    is produced and published by invitation.
  • H8 North London Printmakers – a group of printmakers who believe in bringing high quality
    affordable prints to everyone. They’re very much focused on the price
    range I would regarded as most people’s definition of “affordable”.
  • H1 Rebecca Hossack is showing
    Professor Phil Shaw
    is a ground-breaking British digital-printmaker – who produces some unique
    (and funny) digital art prints. Awarded his Doctorate in ink technology,
    Shaw uses a specialized eight-colour printing process on fine-grade
    Hahnemuhle paper. He was the former Professor of Printmaking at the
    University of Middlesex, where he taught from 1980.
  • D7
    Arc Fine Arts
    stand is showing some lovely etchings by
    Tim Southall 

Mychael Barrett PPRE with “Made in London
his new screenprint and woodcut about the creative artwork and
products first made in London. Underneath is his Gormley’s cat (the dog version sold extremely well at the RA Summer Exhibition)

 

‘You can’t judge a book’ by Phil Shaw

My world is a place where humour is a serious matter, and its purpose is
not simply to raise a laugh but to call attention to the puzzling
absurdities and the dangerous myths, that permeate all our lives.”
Phil Shaw

Etchings by Tim Southall

  • There are some very good stand displays by long established art
    galleries. Ones I’d highlight are with a good stable of artists are:
Linda Blackstone Gallery – Stand E1
  • an absolutely HUGE tent accommodating both various stands and various
    facilities

    (refreshments; packing bay; very nice clean toilets which are well looked
    after). 
    • We had the most enormous thunderstorm and torrential rain during our visit
      – but nothing leaked and everything continued to work!
    • Food is good but favorites sell out fast.
  • you can see a sample of the artworks in this year’s
    Jackson’s Painting PrizeSee my FB Page for pics. I’ll be reviewing when it is exhibited at the
    Bankside Gallery this summer.

What’s interesting? Photography!

There were some very novel photographic works on display. Typically one
which involved the use of very large format cameras and/or digital
manipulation.

Photographic Prints by Mark Vessey
Old Editions of the
‘New Yorker’ on the left
On the right is “Rock” albums
My old man was very taken with Mark Vessey‘s C Type Photographic Crystal Prints of old record albums. The photos are of stacks of record albums by genre with the title and band/singer clearly visible. Apparently an awful lot of people at the Affordable Art Fair in New York were also very keen and bought lots!! He produces limited print run editions at quite large sizes i.e. his small might otherwise be called big! 
He is showing
with Olivia Connelly who is an art consultant and dealer, 

Renowned British photographic artist Mark Vessey celebrates icons of
our popular culture, his pieces now iconic in their own right. Each
piece reflects a snapshot in time, not only of the objects themselves
and the eras and zeitgeists that they represent but also of important
chapters in our own lives and stories.

Vessey’s work
resides in prestigious collections worldwide, has been exhibited to
great acclaim including at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and
been featured in international publications from The Times to GQ

JR was fascinated by them and I’ve now promised to have a go at producing a photographic equivalent of JR’s
very own individual record collection!

I was particularly impressed by Benjamin Rice‘s Prints of Epiphytes and Bryophytes (editions of 10) which you rarely see
at this scale and definition. Priced very much within my definition of a
price range which is affordable should sell well despite this subject matter
being very much a niche interest.
Prints of Epiphytes and Bryophytes by Benjamin Rice

What’s VERY Odd?

Interestingly, the price ceilings for individual items Affordable Art
Fairs (see next section) seem to stay below the threshold for the
application of all the checks applicable to all art galleries and
dealers.
 

See my website re Money Laundering & the Art Market: Anti Money Laundering (AML)
– Law, Regulations and Practice

Of course
all the checks still apply if an individual buys more than one artwork
and the total exceeds the threshold
!

I assume that all the art galleries / dealers know this – but I wouldn’t rely
on it since there is absolutely no reference to money laundering 

  • either in the literatures 
  • or on the website for the art fair.

What’s confusing

Our aim is to produce a well-rounded fair that offers artwork to suit a
range of tastes and budgets. Work that may be accepted at one fair, may
not be at another, as it is also partly dependent on the other
applications we receive.
Exhibiting FAQs

You could say the same thing about any number of art fairs. It’s too
generic.

If you are going to characterise something as an AFFORDABLE
Art Fair then you need a definition of that precisely defines that art fair. The
most obvious way of doing that is to set a ceiling limit for the value of
artwork on display – which could be either end of the spectrum and might also
vary by type of artwork.


What this Affordable Art Fair has is a set of organisers who set a ceiling by
location

All works submitted must fall under the price ceilings listed below, per
fair.

  • Amsterdam – €10,000
  • Brussels – €10,000
  • Berlin – €10,000
  • Hamburg – €10,000
  • Stockholm – SEK90,000
  • Battersea – £7,500
  • Hampstead – £7,500
  • New York – $12,000
  • Austin – $10,000
  • Sydney – AU$10,000
  • Melbourne – AU$10,000
  • Brisbane – AU$10,000
  • Singapore – SG$15,000
  • Hong Kong – HK$100,000
  • Shanghai – Y100,000

These are NOT financial equivalents once translated into the same currency
e.g. 

  • €10,000 in the EU = £8,787
    (i.e. not the £7.500 limit set for Hampstead)
  • $12,000 in New York = £9,640 in London


The people who organise this art fair want to attract art galleries to
exhibit to cover their costs.
One wonders if if this means that overseas
galleries may not realise that their work exceeds most people’s ideas of
“affordable art” in the UK. It’s certainly the case most overseas art
galleries were priced rather high.


The next issue is whether £7,500 is a realistic upper limit for affordable
art.
It probably is. As I have also said before in other posts on this blog

  • Price point hurdles are VERY important determinants of sale
  • Affordable art sells well
  • There’s an effective ceiling limit
However what the art fair does not do is provide any guidance as to sales at different hurdle prices within this price range. As I have established elsewhere in other posts on this blog (see Pricing Metrics)
  • most people think affordable artwork is typically below £1,500
  • above this level, you can generate sales – but only by good calibre
    artists which have credible profile online typically sell art
  • below £1,500, sales peak below £500 and then gradually decrease in
    number as the price rises

So – I ask again. What is “Affordable” – within this context?

What’s less good or just plain bad

  • There’s an awful lot of not very good artwork. 
    • typically manufactured – endless variations on a theme
      (very downmarket versions of Damien Hirst!)
    • often badly painted
  • The lighting distorts colours and tonal values – so what looks
    nice and bright in front of you ends up looking rather more subdued and
    greyish when trying to take a photo. I don’t imagine it generates many
    return visits if people go home to mull it over, pull out their phone
    and find an underwhelming photo!
    (I’ve encountered this before – the Saatchi Gallery  is
    particularly bad at it!)
  • A filter on the website which does not work i.e. fails to
    identify stands which are predominantly about printmakers

What’s not interesting

  • large stands by European Art Galleries – selling unpriced work 
    • for what are very probably prices which exceed the tolerated price
      limit for “affordable” in London
    • if it’s not priced, people typically do not ask
    • if it’s not priced I just walk past. 

If it costs too much to price then it’s not Affordable in my
book

Katherine Tyrrell (Making A Mark)

  • an awful lot of “manufactured art” for want of a better way of
    putting it

    i.e.
    • somebody had a good idea and then repeated it with slight variations
      50 different ways. I was walking straight past this by the end.
    • rip offs of more famous artists (absolutely everywhere!)
    • lots of collections of ‘things’ (poor man Damien Hirst)

I’d go again – but I do hope that they can improve it so it generates a
bigger target audience and sells more art.

The first thing I’d do if I was in charge is insist that every exhibitor prices their artwork.

The Marquee Tent for the Affordable Art Fair at Hampstead
click the
link to go to a Google Map which shows its location

It continues tomorrow – which is the last day – and is open from 11am –
6pm – but it looks as if midday entry is selling out fast.