On approach to one of London’s best art fairs, I already realise today was not the day to wear high heels. A colossal pop-up building stares down at me as I stagger through the grassland of Hampstead Heath in the humidity of a June afternoon. Sweaty and breathing hard, I climbed the metal steps into the grand white tent.
If I thought breathing was difficult before, well then this took every bit of breath away.
The Affordable Art Fair Hampstead: stunning. A mesmerising array of art hung before me. Without feeling too overwhelmed, I made my way to a map that demonstrated a logical graph-like layout to the incredible show that I was yet to be immersed in.
Trying to take it all in, I gazed around, feet rooted to the spot. There were people everywhere, and of all ages, looking at and discussing all the artworks that decorated the exhibition space: some had champagne glasses and sipped away quietly whilst others commented on the vast range of pieces on display, “It’s something you’d definitely have to come back to in order to appreciate everything properly, Jane.” I even watched as a couple of dogs dawdled pass with intrigued owners attached at the leash. From that moment I knew that this was my type of show.
One of the most wonderful aspects about the Affordable Art Fair is that it caters to everyone’s needs. In roughly 10 metres you can wonder past traditional portraiture and landscapes, abstract works, illustration pieces, fabulous sculptures, beautiful contemporary photography and more. In many ways it’s a journey through artistic history through the eyes of artists today.
But, for me, it’s the artworks that I’ve never seen- or even thought of before- that really capture my attention. Some of my notable favourites include: Kathleen Wilke’s Feather; Nick Bodimeade’s Blue Shorts; and Dan Rawlings’ Passing Thoughts. However, the real ‘tell’ as to whether the art is seen as “good” is the number of red dots beneath it.
There’s no doubt that the majority of people attending the Affordable Art Fair are there with pure intentions to buy buy buy.
As for the artworks that really up and stole the show, personally, I think it were the more satirical pieces. Drawn to the sound of an American woman laughing with her 10-year-old son, I found myself standing in front of a bunch of bagged pills. This was Dana Wysr’s collection of Jesus Had A Sister Production; an infinite display of tiny bagged pills all guaranteeing the best possible outcomes. The vintage inspired packaging with titles such as “Guarantee the Heterosexuality of Your Child” and “Enhance Your Man’s Communication Skills” provide the viewer reason to laugh and mock this modern day idea that there is a cure for everything, but it also hints at the darker concept of how science is gaining too much power and exceeding its’ boundaries with dangerous consequences.
Another comical, yet remarkable, piece happened to catch my eye whilst I scanned the artistic horizon. Martin Grover’s Bus Driver’s Prayer pokes out at eye line level in the distance. The make-shift bus stop cleverly incorporates London locations into the words of the Lord’s Prayer adding more humour into the chaotic atmosphere. People wandering past stop and smile at the sign and then are drawn into examine Grover’s other playful works including ‘North London Procrastination Club’- this piece has already collected five red stickers.
As my time at the Affordable Art Fair Hampstead comes to a close, I take one more look around. I consider all the pieces I’ve seen including Grover’s works, all based on the beauty of being a Londoner, and it occurs to me that although there are people and artworks here from all over the globe, there is something wonderfully British about this scene. Perhaps it is the fact that they stuck an art show in the centre of a London park, or maybe it is the broad sun burnt shoulders that wade between art works. I cannot be precise on why the Affordable Art Fair seemed so British to me, but I can be precise on the fact that no matter where you are from or who you are, there is an artwork or two just waiting for you there.
Don’t let it pass you by.
Sadly the Affordable Art Fair Hampstead is now closed. It will reopen again in Summer 2016.
Photos all courtesy of artist’s respective galleries