Abu Dhabi’s The National makes a pitch for the Affordable Art Fair, whose tenth edition kicks off in London this weekend. The fair has editions in other major cities and the paper says it is considering setting up shop in the UAE:
The popularity of the AAF can be linked to the recession’s polarizing effect on the art market. While the super rich are still spending big, the middle market has been hardest hit. […] The venture appears to be somewhat recession-proof: the March 2009 fair recorded the best-ever visitor numbers in its history, with an attendance of 22,800, and £3.7 million (Dh22.2m) worth of art bought.
When the director Will Ramsay set up the fair in 1999 his aim was to make contemporary art accessible to everyone and to show that you don’t need to be an art expert or millionaire to enjoy and buy art. “We wanted to break down the barriers,” he says. “People were scared about art, they felt intimidated. We wanted to give them a relaxing environment in which to look at and think about art. There’s no pressure to buy.” […] In line with the public’s growing knowledge of and interest in art, the past decade has seen the fairs, with their relaxed and colourful atmosphere, increasingly attract a broad range of galleries – from the edgy, young and emerging, to the well-established – thus providing the opportunity for visitors to enjoy work by rising stars along with well-known names like Gerald Laing, Ken Howard, Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin among others.
“When I first started off, I showed my business plan to someone in the art world,” says Ramsay. “He said: ‘It’ll never ever work.’ Similarly, some of the galleries I approached 10 years ago didn’t get the concept, but they’ve since come to realise that we’re fostering the next generation of collectors.”
For higher end galleries, the fair enables them to show a specially commissioned smaller range of more affordable pieces and showcase their work to a wider audience.
The Art of the Deal (The National)