IN CONVERSATION: THE OTHER ART FAIR

The UK’s most successful artist-led art fair is coming to Sydney, providing a platform for exciting emerging talent.

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When Sydney Contemporary returns this September following its successful launch in 2013, it won’t be the only commercial art event running. The United Kingdom’s largest artist-led fair, The Other Art Fair, is being brought Down Under by Zoe Paulsen and Emilya Colliver  and will showcase new work by 100 of Australia’s best emerging artists, each selected by a panel of art industry leaders. We spoke with Ms Paulsen and Ms Colliver about the forthcoming event, which will run 10 – 13 September 2015. 

What’s the importance of connecting young and emerging artists with buyers during this nascent stage in their career?
EC I went to the London fair a few weeks ago and I cannot tell you what a difference it made being able to communicate with and meet the artists directly; from a visitors point of view it brought a whole different meaning to their works. There hasn’t been something like this in Sydney before. The artists aren’t often present when you’re viewing the works, so when you have them give you information about the work, it brings a different meaning, which I personally found extremely important. I think for the artist, it gives them an opportunity to network, to think about marketing themselves, to find out what people are looking for.

Traditionally the fine art world has had the sense of being separate from or disconnected from commercial imperative – has that changed? Are artists more aware of commercial importance today?
ZP Yes, I think they are. I think there’s still a level of art being art, hidden away in its own world, but in this day and age and to pay the bills you need to be aware of the commercialisation of it all.
EC Going to the gallery on a Saturday morning isn’t happening so much anymore. People are buying online, buying at art fairs, because people are so busy. I’ve noticed that trend with Art Pharmacy, that’s why I thought [The Other Art Fair] was fantastic for so many emerging artists to showcase their works for the public. It’s essentially a platform to exhibit and to sell their works, so that they can continue producing. Artists are more aware of the commercial aspect of the industry today.

And I think, too, there’s the opportunity to meet galleries with a view to representation.
ZP As the organisers we’ll do what we can to make sure the right crowd is there. We want to give our artists the best foot forward, so we will run certain workshops and seminars for the artists selected to exhibit, we’ll get collectors and gallerists to come along and have a chat and let our artists know what’s happening in their world and what to expect. It’s about very much about getting picked up. And for collectors and gallerists, coming and discovering the next big thing, to be the one to discover the next big artist.
EC There’ll be 100 artists at our fair, so the quality will be quite high with our commissioning board, and what I notice in the UK is that it’s so diverse – from oil paintings, to prints, to acrylics, sculptures, installations, collage.

How are the artists’ works presented?
ZP They will be in booths, much like any other art fair, and the artists will decide on the particular size, so in that way it’s quite similar to a traditional art fair; the work is hung, you can purchase then and there on the spot, we’ll have food trucks, a pop-up bar, so as to create an environment of liveliness and fun. The main difference is that the artists are manning their booths, so it’ll be very obvious who the artist is. I love that idea, because it breaks down that barrier of people not feeling to intimidated by the white cube.

And what about for visitors – what does this fair offer? How affordable is it?
The works will range in price, and it is hard to say without all the artists having been selected, but anywhere from around $100 to $10,000 so far, so it’s very affordable.