Each year the art fair calendar gets more and more congested. With all the European biennials, established fairs and new upstarts in London alone, keeping up with the calendar can sometimes feel like a chore. With London Art Fair taking place this week over 5 days, we’ve spoken with Jean Wainwright, a London based art historian, critic and advisor at affordable art marketplace Rise Art. Jean shares her tips on how to get the most out of a fair.
We’re excited for the opening of London Art Fair this week. What do you find most useful about attending these events?
Well, they’re useful for a number of things: being surprised, spotting trends, meeting great people, absorbing the energy and the atmosphere. Enabling late openings, focused events and tours of galleries etc etc.
What’s the most shocking thing you’ve ever seen at a fair?
Every year I see a number of provocative projects and performances, but the two that stuck out for me were those by Andrea Zittel and Jake and Dinos Chapman. When Jake and Dinos Chapman drew on twenty and fifty pound notes at the Frieze Art Fair in 2007, the queues and the queue jumping were outrageous. Collectors paid other people to queue for them which in itself became a reflection on art commodity and value. There was panic on many people’s faces when the cash machine ran out. People were running around and thinking they missed out on a work of art. The greed and intensity were something you don’t see often at a public space.
On the other side of the spectrum, I absolutely loved the atmosphere created by the ‘Interlopers’ Andrea Zittel’s artwork where hikers slept in the Frieze Art Fair at night while ‘hiking’ around London during the day. The hikes and the club were not art but ‘everything around them was’.
Give us 3 of your tips for sneaking into an private event?
Always remember that she/he who hesitates is lost. You must aim to emit the aura ‘of course I am on the list’
Or, of course, make friends with the security guard
Arrive early and smile!
London Art Fair is a staple on the London art calendar. If you were advising a friend of how to do the fair for the first time, what would you tell them?
Get the printed map so that you can tick off which galleries you have seen. This has the advantage that you can gauge how many stands you have NOT seen, which of course means you must speed up and stop hugging, air kissing and talking to all those people you want to catch up with or pretend you know.
Wear flat shoes
Be focused, pace yourself and smile – you don’t want to appear on blogs, facebook or in a photographs looking stressed.
How do you prepare yourself for an Art Fair in advance?
I look at the website and the press links. I like to see what the talk programmes are offering. I speak to galleries in advance to see who they will bringing and if they are profiling a particular artist.
Do art fairs become easier the more time you attend them?
Yes more people to greet, more familiar spaces and faces – but at all costs, avoid the FFF: Frenetic Fair Fatigue somehow the more times you go the less you see. Its easy to get sucked into this vortex where you spend all your time saying hello, and don’t actually see any art.
Your thoughts on an Art Fair splurge?
It doesn’t matter where you purchase Art, whether its at an Art Fair, gallery, online art gallery, what you need to do is to buy something you love. Too many people get distracted by what they perceive will be valuable and don’t end up with artwork that actually resonates with them. For serious collectors, this may have merit, but if you’re new to collecting, make sure you trust your own instincts and buy artwork you really love.
Professor Jean Wainright is a London-based art historian and critic. Her areas of expertise are in contemporary art and photography, with particular reference to Andy Warhol on whose life and works she is an internationally recognised expert. As a writer and academic she has published extensively in the contemporary arts field, contributing to a number of catalogues and books as well as appearing on television and radio programmes.
Jean is also a regular contributor on Rise Art