The Other Art Fair
The Other Art Fair, presented by Saatchi Arts, is a platform for emerging contemporary artists to showcase and sell their works directly to the public. The core of its mission is to embody the “other side” of the art market: one that is fairer and more accessible. This global event takes place in major cities, including London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Melbourne and Sydney, with each fair showcasing a diverse combination of innovative yet reasonably priced artwork, immersive installations, performances and playful stands like tattoo and collage stations. In contrast to the monotony of the traditional art world (which can appear dull, featuring only a select group of established artists in uniform spaces), The Other Art Fair commits to fostering an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for all. So, how well did the fair deliver on this promise during yesterday’s opening event?
The night proved to be a vibrant and eclectic affair, featuring over 150 artist booths spread across two expansive rooms. Attendees were treated to live DJs and a bar serving a range of affordable drinks. In recognition of International Women’s Day, the fair made a concerted effort to address gender disparity in a male-dominated art world, with an impressive 61% of female artists in the lineup. The exhibited artworks encompassed a diverse range of media, exploring various themes ranging from stark political messages to more lighthearted, whimsical creations.
A striking exhibit was the stand featuring female refugee artists from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, marking the debut of their project Refugee Art Works (RAW). RAW is an international collective of female refugee artists and craftmakers who have united to support each other. The exhibit seamlessly blended striking colours with a sense of optimism and mutual solidarity. Notable works also included Sarah Needham’s eye-catching blue canvases, Spencer Charles’s evocative nude photography, and William Butcher’s intricate pen-and-ink compositions imitating an etching/woodblock style of the Victorian era. Furthermore, Lexi Laine’s emotive, otherworldly photography, and Charlie Constantinou’s slightly surreal interior scenes were remarkable standouts. It’s also worth pointing out that artworks could be snatched up and bagged on the spot, eliminating the need for intermediaries and the bureaucracy of traditional art purchasing.
One of the remarkable features at the fair was RankinLIVE, a stand where attendees could sit for a portrait taken by the prominent photographer Rankin. The experience included a limited time in front of the lens, either as a solo sitter or with a companion, and offered a digital version of the final portrait, along with an authenticated print for £420. Rankin’s distinguished reputation notwithstanding, many attendees deemed this price to be excessive, particularly as an impulse purchase. Similarly, tattoos designed by Ally Ink were also available for £120, which may have been challenging for some casual visitors to afford. The question arises whether these experiences have a place in a space that claims to be inclusive to all. Fortunately, an art station was available free of charge, where visitors could create unique collages. The majority of artist booths also provided affordable options such as prints, postcards and smaller artworks, catering to visitors on a budget.
Overall, the event exuded a genuine sense of inclusivity and warmth. Many artists were open to having conversations with visitors and even expressed interest in keeping in touch, creating a sense of community. In contrast to the conventional art fairs that often emphasise VIP experiences and exclusivity, The Other Art Fair provides an opportunity to engage with art in a more tangible and accessible setting. It feels more grounded in reality, which begs the question: why should this be considered “Other” and not the norm?
The Other Art Fair is at from 9th March until 12th March 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.