Contemporary art's rising stars showcased in London in-person and virtually
Juliet Mann in London
As discussion continues over how soon and how far economies around the world open up further, London's first in-person art fair of the year is taking place in a trendy part of Kings Cross.
Saatchi's 'The Other Art Fair' showcases the work of more than 110 emerging artists and provides them a platform to sell directly to buyers in-person and online.
"Honestly I am so excited to be back," said the event founder, Ryan Stanier.
"For the artists, it is great because they get to meet their collectors face to face, they get to build relationships with them and sell directly to them and that is what is unique about this art fair compared to others where it is typically the gallery, the sales guy, selling the works," he said.
Hackney Dave, real name David Buonaguidi, only quit his 15-year career in advertising in January 2020, to focus on his screen printing art full-time. Even after catching COVID-19 and being out of action for 7 weeks, he knew it was the right risk to take.
"It is amazing. I sold two or three this morning, with a couple of others on the line and I will reel them in later," he said.
The pandemic forced many art fairs to cancel and galleries to close, at least temporarily. So business moved online.
"The reason why people are excited about buying online is they are sitting at home, looking at empty walls, looking for inspiration, and looking for investment as well. At the higher end of the market I see people may be buying assets, art being one of them, so rather than having their money in the banks, I think they are putting it into art," said Stanier.
Basel Art & UBS Art Market Report 2021 shows online Art sales doubled to a record $12.4 billion in 2020. But that wasn't enough to change the big picture.
Already in decline pre-COVID-19, the global art market overall fell 22 percent in value last year to 50.1 billion dollars - a long way off the 2014 peak of $68.2 billion.
Artists say the lack of art fairs has been a big challenge to the art world's ecosystem, but there has been some upside for those in the regions.
Asbestos in the government's art collection
Bruce Asbestos is based in Nottingham where he works on fashion shows and makes giant inflatables.
"My work is now part of the UK's national government art collection," he said.
"Usually an institution like that might go to one art fair to buy works for their buildings, but they have broadened the way they looked at artists regionally, which is very exciting for someone like me, not based in the capital," he said.
The future of art, he says, is art fairs.
"Art exists and thrives when it meets people, otherwise it is just some plastic in a box. I think I have really missed that connection with people during the pandemic," Asbestos said.
Phoebe Bobby who graduated from art school last year agrees.
"The pandemic was when I did create my best work," she said. "But we need to network and create a bond between new artists and buyers. With a gallery, you buy it because you like it, but when you buy it from the artist you are investing in the artist, you know where they are, where they are from, why they are doing it and that is more important," she said.
The fair is crackling with chatter about the stories behind each work. But there is a recognition too from the artists that online wasn't just a pandemic stopgap. - it is a future-facing sales channel, especially for emerging art stars. Even this event goes virtual when the real-life exhibition ends.