Well that was great fun! What an excellent day, It was never going to be quite the same south of the river, of course it wasn’t, and a lot of the debate at the end of it all revolved around comparing the day with the great days of previous fairs and the buzz of Brick Lane. To compare really is the wrong thing to do though, of course it was never going to be the quite the same and in a month where East London has been rather alive with art and the buzz of the very recently East London Art Night amongst other East London things of a more artist-led nature, it seemed a little strange to be loaded up with art and heading for South London early on a Sunday morning. The Art Car Boot Fair needed a re-boot though, Brick Lane was great but it needed a refresh, a boot up the boots as is were, a kick up the arts, and for everything that the new Vauxhall-based event lacked that the Brick Lane car park had, there were plenty of things that made this south of the river event indoors and outside at the big Workshop space (just by the Newport Street Gallery) something rather special in whole load of new and different ways. Those who argued this year’s Art Car Boot Fair was maybe the best one yet might just have been right.
The Art Car Boot fair is almost a London institution now (as are the ques for the Pure Evil stall), was that the twelfth or thirteenth year? One thing is for sure, it is always exciting to be invited to take part. And it is always by invite, this most certainly isn’t one of those annoying art fairs that feature any old artist willing to pay the stupidly vast fees most fairs think they can charge an artist to take part in. None of the artists are ever charged a fee to take part in the Art Car Boot fair, this is a carefully curated artist-friendly event put together with a more than healthy nod towards the original spirit of East London art and the pionerring days of the never forgotten man in his white suit, I rather think Joshua Compston would have enjoyed the 2017 version of the annual London Art Car Boot Fair. We artists were all invited, no one was charged, the fair is always about working with artists rather than making as much money out of artists as they can, this, unlike most art fairs, is about artists and organisers coming together to make a great day happen, and as we already said last week in the Organ preview piece, to be an artist invited to take part is something of an honour. This is a special event, we appreciate it all, we especially appreciate those who come along to check it all out and engage with the art and the artists, we really do appreciate those who queue to come see what we have to offer.
Now as an artist taking part it really is impossible to see anything near all of it, impossible to really know what’s going on outside, to know how big the queue really is (it was already impressively big when we got there at 8am to set up. Four hours before opening time and there’s a big big line of smiling people, and as we’re setting up we’re hearing rumours of it stretching out all the way back to East London). As an artist taking part it really is impossible to see everything or indeed to cover it all here, this really isn’t a “proper” review, this is just a flavour of the day, a reflection or two and a view from out car boot.
We can’t cover everything here, this year half the stalls (or car boots) were inside the big old workshop building (a former fire engine repair workshop so we’re told), the other half of the stalls are out in the backyard and snaking around the side of the big building. To even attempt to tell you about it all would be impossibly foolish, who knows what Pure Evil was doing inside? Or what Pam Hogg had to offer or what the Rachel Howard ink pieces looked like in the flesh – really want to see those – or to see what the Binnie Sisters had created this year (apparently some rather fine tiles celebrating that Neo Naturist show at the ICA last year, if you missed that you missed something rather special). We didnt get to see what Bob and Roberta Smith had to say in his own unique way, or what Harland Miller had to offer or the observations that C.A Halpin had brought along from the Outside World she documents so well ot what the Ben Eine prints looked like this year (although we can maybe take an educated guess about his latest print, another over-slick bit of graphic design? Another letter maybe? Good on him if slick typography is your thing, I prefer it with a little more of an edge, a sense of the texture of the paint, the glory of an inperfect mark and a fresh layer or two growing over a previous one).
We can hear the music but we can’t see the bands from our boot, we saw the steam train going over the bridge though, they didn’t get to see that inside did they! Fifty years to the day from the end of steam on the Southern Region, I know you like to know these things. We can’t even see the classic Vauxhall cars from where we are down the side here, down the side is the edgy bit where the spray paint is still wet, no 60’s Vauxhall classics down here but we can see Ryka’s yellow smiley van, we can see Limbo and Schoony and we can people-watch as we see who ventures down to the end to see what Swifty has to offer (excellent pop art flavoured music culture, Swifty always has something worth checking out).
We can see lots and lots of people, we can see so many people! People watching is half the fun of the fair, the people, the interaction, the hair colour, this is a day when art let down his or her hair and just gets on with being colourful and having lots of engaging creative fun. You might think the day is about the art and the artists, really the day is about us sitting there watch you all go by, the Art Car Boot Fair is great for people watching, for dog watching, for shoe watching, for hat watching…
Actually the interaction is the very best thing from the point of view of us artists, the interaction and the meeting with people and those coming up and buying something and then telling us they’re buying their very first bit of original art, the little girls asking Emma Harvey about the feminist slogans on her new My Little Pony Paintings, about the people watching Schoony spray paint a stencil and then buying it off him when he’s let it dry. The One Hundred Pieced Piece is all about the engagement of course, a piece of work in one hundred parts, each part an original painting on recycled cardboard, all apinting at the same time and each painting for sale at just £1 a go at the fair, (can’t be blowing my own trumpet too much though)
Barriers are down at the Art Car Boot Fair and engagement is the key, chatting, meeting, greeting, exploring, it feels refreshed in this new venue down by the river (new permanent home?), re-booted indeed, it feels rejuvenated, we are catching glimpses of some of the rather impressive art that people have bought (and yes indeed, thanks for asking, we did okay, we shall eat this week). The Art Car Boot Fair, as we’ve said on these pages several times before, is a great thing to be a part of, an exciting event to take part in, a brilliant day in every way, I love being part of it, I think I can say all the artists do
No, it was never going to be quite like the slightly more anarchic Brick Lane days, yes this was still the same event in so so many ways, but this was diffenrent in so many ways as well, everything evolves and yes, those who argue it might have been even better this year may well have a very good argument. Art is great when it reaches out and engages like this. and no it wasn’t all about the big names. It is strangely baffling to see that the only thing the art press can be bothered to report on the day after such a great event is which celebrity was spotted or which big name made the most money in the quickest time, nothing much about the actual art or the day or the thrill of it all, what a shame, what is it with the London art press? Are they the only ones not interested in te actual art?). No it really wasn’t all about the big names it was mostly about the new art discovered, about the delight to be found in an original painting you just bought direct from an artist you got to have a good chat with or about the print you saw being printed or just the engaging fun of the day, or the person who came up to you to buy a piece off you. We had a great time in our car boot, hope you did, sorry if I didn’t get to chat to everyone who tried to chat, sometimes it can get really busy. Art excites, excellent day, long live the Art Car Boot Fair and artists and organisers and people exploring art all coming together to make great days like this happen. Big big thanks everyone, hopefully see you next year. (sw)
Click on an image to enlarge or ot run the fractured slide show….