So, I went to Art London this afternoon, at Royal Hospital Chelsea. Art London is a collection of galleries under canvas in the centre of London, UK, and it runs until Monday. There are a few events like this throughout the year – Frieze, the Affordable Art Fair, and the London Art Fair (which is a LAF a minute).
They’re spaces for selling work. And that’s all they are. This is where the art meets the commerce, and its these kind of events that are re-vitalising people’s interest in art, whilst creating a problem at the same time
Basically, someone has realised that if you set up an art fair in the middle of Chelsea, charge some medium-to-big-time successful galleries a shit-load of money to exhibit there, take a commission on any sales, AND charge the punters £12 just to get in, you stand to get very rich indeed.
What this means is that you and I go in, and are confronted by a) hoardes of paintings placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, b) hoardes of people placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, and c) Chelsea pensioners.
It’s a bit like a guitarist playing 50 of his songs at you all at the same time, and then asking you if you want to buy his latest album. “I don’t know! I have a headache!” is the correct response.
It’s a shame, because there are some genuine curiosities here, that might repay the time and effort of waiting and looking, but it’s far too exhausting to make that effort worthwhile (the best stuff seems to be on the right of the marquee as you go in).
The prices are a little more out of reach than something like the Affordable Art Fair, and the quality is not as brilliant as it could be, in my opinion. I suppose I should be networking, but the people running the stands look like they’re there because they have to be, rather than because they want to be. (I mean really, look at the photo).
The one to go and see is the Frieze Art Fair next week. The prices will be out of my league too, but as a snapshot of good contemporary art, it’s second to none. There are bigger name galleries there, the paintings are placed at a decent enough distance apart for you to look at them, and the people there are far more interesting to look at. Plus the quality of the work is about 100 times better.
Roll on next week.