30 May 2009 Art shows in London

We went up to London today to see the Untitled Art Fair in Chelsea.

The photo here is from the Untitled website showing last years show. This is a very crowded space filled with 150 artists and their work. The show is run by an artist who was sure that he could do it better than established art dealers. Each artist is allocated just a few square feet of wall and floor space. Exhibitors are risking more than £1000 each to show here for one evening and a couple of days. It is probably nearer £2000 each when all costs are considered.  
The weather today was hot, and the atmosphere inside the Chelsea Town Hall was stifling. The aisles were crowded, but I reckon that there were actually more artist exhibitors than visitors. Some good work, some not so good. A few red dots visible, just a few. We met friends who were exhibiting, who were feeling hopeful that things can get better.

Then we went along the Kings Road a few hundred yards to the Saatchi Gallery. The contrast was extraordinary. Vast empty air-conditioned spaces on three floors. Exhibits have acres of wall and floor space each. Superb cutting edge exciting art on show, and entrance is free. No pressure to buy anything. The gallery is home to the private collection and personal display of a very rich man, who supports the arts generously.  He is very established and very very influential in the high art market. Saatchi has made a fortune for some artists, and dashed the hopes of others.

Here is my grandson Marlon contemplating an amusing  sculpture at the Saatchi.

On reflection I  cannot easily say which show I liked best.


  1. First time saying hello — enjoying your blog very much.

    I've always been told to stay away from "Pay to Play" galleries/venues as the owner/dealer has then little reason to promote the artists work since they've already made their money from the artist, though maybe this "depends" on the venue.


  2. Commercial bricks and mortar galleries that hire themselves out to artists are pretty useless at selling the exhibits for the artist client. They can be OK, only if you have a good list of potential collectors already under your wing, and you just hire a convenient space for your show.
    The Untitled Art Fair, and other Art fairs, are potentially different because the exhibition could attract lots of new visitors, and introduce your work to them.
    I was dismayed yesterday at the Untitled to see how many artists were failing to realise that they should be capturing the names and contact details of any body who looks at their work with interest. In fact I reckon that 'contact detail' capture should be seen as the primary purpose of such a fair. Any sales on the day are a bonus. If you are lucky you could recoup your expenses, but you should budget for a loss.


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