The Global Affordable Art Fair Sensation
If you compared it to other sectors the commercial art world was backwards, I used to go around art fairs in London in my twenties and I felt I wasn’t being catered for. There I was, with no formal art training but the desire to buy art, and no one was on hand to help me learn more.
This quote is coming from an interview the online publication ‘London Loves Business’ made with the founder of the Affordable Art Fair, Will Ramsay, back in 2011.
This sentiment is shared by millions of other likeminded individuals around the world, the big difference is that the rest of us didn’t see this as an opportunity to revolutionise the art world. Will Ramsay did.
Today the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) is a global brand, in fact a famous and “cool” such, having a spot among the biggest brands of the UK, according to Coolbrands, alongside the likes of Apple, Mercedes-Benz and Lavazza. Not a shabby achievement in just over a decade really.
Today the term affordable is symbolic for our times. In the current financial climate, like it or not, it turned into the buzzword that the world has to focus on. Therefore, you would easily think that it all started with that in mind, but in fact, AAF is from a different era, some more glorious, money-rich times.
The idea all started back in 1996 when Will Ramsay opened his Art Warehouse in southwest London, seeing the opportunity and the link between an increased interest in contemporary art and the galleries. From the beginning the strategy was clear: offer works for a maximum price of £2,500 from relatively unknown artists. The reception was great and as a direct result of the success, some three years later, in October 1999, the first ever Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London, was a reality.
Some ten thousand visitors and two years later the second event was held, followed by a new location in Bristol and soon after the international expansion started. First stop outside the UK was New York (2002) and from there it carried on with the first mainland European launch in Amsterdam (2007). Today the Affordable Art Fair is a global phenomenon, present in cities including New York, Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, Singapore, Hamburg, Mexico City, Seattle, Stockholm, Hong Kong and Maastricht.
The key to success has been, of course, the popularity of the event, measured in attendance and figures. Over the years more than one million people have visited the fairs and art for a value of over €200 million have been exchanging hands. But maybe the most fascinating achievement of the concept has been the revolution it brought with it.
As the initial quote indicates, art twenty years ago was considered something elitist, reserved for a few. While it’s still true that the most famous works are, of course, unachievable except for a selected few, the major part of the artworks globally being sold are in a way more accessible price range. Will Ramsay and his Affordable Art Fairs have been fighting against the conventions and brought art to the masses.
Today there is a price ceiling of £4,000 (UK), €5,000 (Europe) and $10,000 (US/Asia), and thereby the fair aims to appeal to and make art accessible for all. To narrow the gap further, there is also a section of the fair dedicated to pieces of art just for around a couple of hundred Euros.
In the same interview we refer to above, Ramsay draws some parallels to the world of wine: in a not all too distant past, the wine industry was still something intimidating, reserved for the “connoisseurs”. With a new approach to wine labelling, marketing and retailing the barriers have been removed and the industry is not the stiff old men’s club it used to be. After the wine revolution, AAF has brought something similar to the art world. Times are changing.
By browsing through the AAF website, we came across this quote by an artist, William Morris:
I do not want Art for a few any more than I want education for a few, or freedom for a few.
We couldn’t agree more.
The Affordable Art Fair Amsterdam 2014 opens on Thursday October 30th, 2014, for the general public in the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord. Admission at the door is €13 (advance purchase online is €10).
Other Affordable Art Fairs during 2014 and 2015 are as follows:
Brussels 7 – 9 February
Milan 7 – 9 March
London, Battersea 13 – 16 March
Hong Kong 20 – 23 March
Maastricht 3 – 6 April
New York 3 – 6 April
Singapore 22 – 25 May
London, Hampstead 12 – 15 June
Bristol 19 – 21 September
New York 26 – 29 September
Stockholm 2 – 5 October
Mexico City 17 – 19 October
London, Battersea 23 – 26 October
Amsterdam 30 – 2 November
Hamburg 13 – 16 November
Singapore 20 – 23 November
Brussels 6 – 9 February
London, Battersea 12 – 15 March
Milan 19 – 22 March
New York 26 – 29 March
Maastricht 16 – 19 April
Love Art, Toronto 16 – 19 April
Singapore 17 – 19 April
Hong Kong 22 – 24 May
Hampstead 11 – 14 June
New York TBC
Mexico City TBC
London, Battersea TBC