Art for Everyone: The Affordable Art Fair, 2011

Here are the highlights… they were twinkling all over the ceiling in 1980s wedding reception style. There was even a DJ spinning disco tracks to buy art to – and the room was rocking. Whether or not they had money to spend, on Thursday night, The Affordable Art Fair was jam-packed with an uncommonly cheery crowd: There were young couples choosing a shared memory for their first home together, grown-up girls having a bit of culture-cum-chatter over a glass of wine, art students meeting their friends for a reckie, and mature marrieds searching for inner-meaning, hidden somewhere amidst the modern art. Lone male dealers could also be spotted, prowling stealthily around the stands. (I expect families with children will be added to the mix today too, especially as there’s a crèche and an education area). The galleries and artists seemed an equally eclectic bunch – from crafty and cool, to accomplished fine art and Bayswater Road kitsch.

The fair boasts ‘accessibility,’ and Battersea certainly has a fun, friendly atmosphere – you’re unlikely to encounter the long, leaden faces seen at some of the recent antiques events at the same venue. Prices range from £50 to £5000 – though the cheapest items I saw were around the £150 mark. One good thing though, is that pricing doesn’t appear to be related to the size of the artwork. At other fairs I’ve seen curiously cliquey price tags of £9,500, £12,000 and £15,000, seemingly linked more to the dimensions of a canvas than the artist’s experience and style, or the materials used.

As for art, the Affordable mix includes less conceptual and more figurative pieces than last week’s happening shows. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of London landmarks and symbols – paintings by Robert E Wells, Susan Brown (above) and Chris Daynes stand out from the crowd. But other cities get a look in too – see David Atkins’ Morning on 42nd Street (below).

For less traditional works, affordable artists (or gallery curators) seem to have stuck pretty much to a few popular trends, so you’ll find plenty of dioramas, decoupage, paper-folding, pop-art-meets-graffiti, re-worked antiquarian books, maps, and handcrafted, fabric-based collages.

There are fewer skulls and butterflies than I’d expected, but for anyone still hankering after a penny’s worth of Brit Art, I did notice a Damien Hirst print – a small woodcut consisting of four spots (one of 48) –  for £3000, plus £170 extra for the frame.

Anyway, my personal picks include Mel Fraser’s stunning alabaster sculptures, Pam Glew’s bleached and dyed handmade flags and Maria Rivans’s View-Master inspired, vintage 3D collages.

Those looking for the next big thing may opt for something a little folksy, perhaps from postmodern artist (and ex-soccer player) Benjamin Hollingsworth’s Crosstown Dreamer Series. According to the West Two Gallery, his works, “reflect the juxtaposed underbelly of the deep American South comprising nature’s beauty and humanity’s raw talent.”  Created from flowers, shoe polish, Indian ink and acrylic, Hollngsworth’s canvases are built up and sanded down over and over. Rose petals are then added, sculpture-like, as elements of life and beauty, which will eventually die, just like the struggling members of the local population.

So, which pieces will prove to be the best investment in the current market? As ever, the old adage ‘let the buyer beware’ best answers this: However affordable, the real value of any art lies in the pleasure it affords.

The Affordable Art Fair is open in Battersea today and tomorrow from 11.0 am  until 6.0 pm and then in Hampstead until 28th October. Courtesy buses are available from the nearest tube station (see website for details).

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

9 thoughts on “Art for Everyone: The Affordable Art Fair, 2011

    October 22, 2011 at 14:00

    I used to have a great time at the AAF – sold a lot of work too, but it’s a bit more difficult taking the time out now I have a permanant affordable art fair of my own oop ere in’t north. Nice post Susan.

    October 22, 2011 at 14:12

    Thanks David, I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to comment (they’re obviously all out at the AAF!) but I’m so glad that you’re the first. I was wondering if you know Robert Wells – think he’s based up your way? Hope you’ve been getting lots of positive feedback on your work from that lovely ‘artist of the week’ video?

      October 22, 2011 at 15:19

      Yep, lots of feedback, in fact I walked into a wall of it last night when I went to a local wine bar for a ‘quiet drink’ – It’s gone round f/book so I can’t escape it now!
      I don’t know Robert but I’ve seen and like his work. Is he a friend?

        October 22, 2011 at 18:19

        Great news, David – you’ll need a minder soon… No I don’t know Robert, I just did a little online research and noticed that he’s in Yorkshire. By the way, do you know Theo Platt, another Yorkshireman, who painted my portrait some years for an exhibition in my former boutique cum gallery?

          October 22, 2011 at 18:39

          No, I’m afraid I’d not heard of him Susan. Did you enjoy the process of portraiture and how did you feel it went – did you like the result?

            October 24, 2011 at 23:19

            Have answered on your blog, David!

  3. Brit
    October 22, 2011 at 16:12

    Great review Susan. I like the Mel Fraser sculpture, which manages to be both beautiful like a shell and ugly like a brain tumor.

    They have an AAF in Bristol too these days, though my idea of ‘affordable’ is a way off theirs.

      October 22, 2011 at 18:24

      Brit, funny you should mention the prices, as I would love to have bought this particular sculpture – so thanks for your tumour analogy – it’s put paid to any thoughts I had of stretching beyond my budget…

  4. Gaw
    October 22, 2011 at 17:27

    I used to go to this when it was in Islington (I think it was the same one). I stopped going, even though it was good fun (glad to see it still is), because it got so busy. Heaving it was. I don’t know whether the recession has affected things but there seemed to be an awful lot of people with a few hundred quid to spend on art, at least around London parts.

    It was also good to see ‘cheaper’ prints and sketches by very famous artists – Picasso, one year – rubbing shoulders with the unknown.

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