It has become a bit of a tradition now, the Art Car Boot Fair road trip and the main event of the London Art Car Boot Fair being followed by a day out and the boot fair hitting the road. In recent years we’ve been to Liverpool, we’ve been to Hastings, to Margate, this year it was back to Folkestone again for the first day of the 2017 Folkestone Triennial in the hope of more seaside treats. Get up at silly o’clock and head out of London bags loaded with art and the checking of rain radars, prayers offered to the weather goods, fast train from East London, a 46 minute high-speed dash to the delights of the Kent coast and the seagulls of the harbour front.
Here then is a quick view and a flavour or two from the Cultivate “car boot”, and sorry if we didn’t get around to check out and photograph all the art, it really can be a frantically busy day for those of us taking part, this is not a review of the whole event, this is just the view from our boot stall, so much we didn’t get to see or photograph, impossible to see it all if you’re an artist taking part…
Head out on the first (impressively fast) high-speed train to the coast – exciting, art excites, we’ve been looking forward to this one fo weeks. The Folkestone Triennial was a triumph last time around in 2014, so was the Art Car Boot Fair on the harbour front that was part of it that year, three years on and we’re on the way back and hoping for some late summer sunshine and not too much wind or rain (please). First thing you see is that Bob and Roberta Smith and his pupils have been hard at work, “Folkestone is an Art School” reads the big sign-like piece of art across from the platform, something repeated on the big billboard right outside the same station and again around the town as our (very friendly, very reasonably priced) taxi takes us and our big bags full of art to the Harbour Arm and the Folkestone seafront. The queue for the Art Car Boot Fair is already snaking around the harbour front and across the old railway line when we get there, still hours until the midday opening, there’s a buzz…
There’s always a buzz around the Art Car Boot Fair, and as we’ve said before, it is one of the most exciting engaging art events of the English summer, most seem to agree that the 2017 London leg (this year at Vauxhall rather than Brick Lane) was as successful as ever, record attendance figures and reports, according to the arts media (who strangely seemed more interested in reporting on the money rather than the art) of records in terms of sales (although how anyone knows who sells what and how much is made I don’t know? Certainly none ever asks any of us and the organisers certainly don’t ask for a cut or any commission).
The line-up for Folkestone looked exciting (and yes, I do speak as an artist who’s taking part – the line-up is exciting, it really is exciting to be taking part, exciting being part of an event like this, surely it should be exciting for an artist to being part in any exhibition or show? Of course it is and any artist who says anything different isn’t really telling the truth (fear that admitting excitement may be seen as being uncool or not the kind of thing a serious artist should admit to?). Being part of the engagement of the Art Car Boot Fair is exciting and yes I do sound like a broken record, art is exciting, art excites!
The full Folkestone Line-up read like this; Gavin Turk, Geraldine Swayne, Sir Peter Blake, Marcus Harvey, Kristjana Williams, Ben Eine, Vic Reeves, Nina Fowler, Kate Knight, David Edmond, Jake Clarke, Keeler Tornero, Edy Ferguson, True Rocks and Bip Ling, Ian Dawson, Wildcat Will, Sophy Rickett, Paul Sakoilsky, Cate Halpin & Outside World Allstars, Binnie Sisters, Wilma Johnson, Carrie Reichardt, Christian Furr, Richard Clegg, Mark Jones, Cliff Pearcey, Laura New, Dion Kitson, Schoony, Joseph Gibson, Matt Rowe, Paul Hodgson, James Joyce, Jason Gibilaro, Jake Clarke, Kelly Ann Davitt, Kelvin Pawsey, Bayle Window, Julie Maddison, Leigh Clarke, X Ray Fog, Alteria Art with Jake & Dinos Chapman, Art on a Postcard, Jealous Gallery with Charming Baker, Jess Albarn, Joe Webb & Anka Dabrowska, Cultivate with Sean Worrall, Emma Harvey and Quiet British Accent, Moniker Projects with Ben Eine and Luke Cheuh, Worton Hall Studios, Smithson Gallery with Frea Buckler, Flying Leaps, Renaissance Selfies, ARTourists, Turps Painters, The Chip Shop Group with Vincent Lloyd, Sam Millen, Kester Hackney, Leigh Mulley, Dave Boughton, The Amorist, Kin Art with Swifty, Beamish McGlue, Bean About Town, Nats Chaff Micro-Pub, Clifford Slapper and more
And so you’re busy setting up, frantically getting ready before the gate opens, you’re setting out your stalls, setting up your boots, trying to quickly check out the vintage Vauxhall cars that have been a part of the boot fair for quite a few years now (no F Types this year, do love those old English Chevy lines, no fins, fins were considered too much for the British market). You’re busy trying to get it all in place and say hello to fellow artists and trying not to appear rude before the mad rush once the gates open, frantic. And then you’re there behind your stall for the rest of the day unable to go really explore everything – the Boyfriend Auditions opposite look intriguing, we can see all kinds of interesting things from our red gazebo-shaped “car boot”, what’s that over there? You’re catching glimpses of things people have bought and are walking around with but the essential thing about the Art Car Boot Fair for the artists (and hopefully for the visitors) is the engagement, the meeting of people, the conversations and the chance that you really don’t get in a formal gallery situation to engage with the people who come to explore art, a chance to find out what (real) people are thinking, to discover what’s exciting the people who don’t often enter your bubble and talk to you, the Art Car Boot Fair is about the people who come to it as much as it is about the artists who take part…
The Chip Shop collective are over there, there’s some great paintings and print making and bits of performance floating by, there’s live music being played and that delightful Bayle Window Lost Pigeon Archive from Sally Penfold looks good (wish I had had time ot buy a pigeon piece) and Vic Reeves (who really should be seen as just another artist and not a token celebrity dabbling, got a lot of time and respect for the art of mr Reeves) today Vic is getting people to request a piece of music and then doing a charcoal drawing on the spot as a reaction to the chosen piece of music that’s playing (a piece of raging anarcho punk from Conflict requested by a man in a Crass t-shirt at one point). And there’s Geraldine Swayne’s exquisite pieces and Lady Muck’s anarchy and those glorious David Edmond paintings of people in parks and Emma Harvey’s Ponies Against patriarchy (that all sold incredibly quickly) and “What would Mark E. Smith do? ” But it really isn’t about picking out artists or name-dropping or focusing on individual slices of art, it really is about the whole thing, the one whole that the beautifully unique Art Car Boot Fair has been for the last ten or mote years now – the notion of a “better Woolworths”, the idea of engagement, of being able to sell an original painting for a pound and not be a tiny bit precious about it.
Yes there are the annoying art flippers, part-time dealers, art-leaches who are just there to make a quick buck and stick their haul straight on ebay, and then there’s the bores who just head for the stalls of the big name artists and think exploring what everyone else has a little bit beneath them – “I’ve got my Ben Eine print, I’m off home now, I know my art me, the rest of you plebs can explore though the rest of it, I know everything about every artist here already, I don’t need to bother looking” – but hey, who cares about them or that, this is where art gets to let her hair down and smile and the little things that might annoy can’t spoil the big beautiful picture – this is where kids get to spend their pocket-money on a print and start a whole life of art-exploring, this is where people dance and talk or just stroll around enjoying it all without feeling the need to buy anything other than maybe a pint or a cup of coffee, I love being part of the Art Car Boot Fair and the slightly anarchic fun that connects it all together.
And don’t mistake the notion of “anarchic fun” for “anything goes”, the Art Car Boot Fair curators have standards, the organisers are picky with their invites and their selections, standards are high, never snobbish or aloof though, just carefully put together. And as we’ve pointed out before (and I probably said in te last review), unlike most art fairs, the artists are not charged to be part of te Art Car Boot Fair, it is considered an honour to be invited to take part, but it never is,even if it is a boot fair, about money.. Most art fairs try to charge us artists and artist-run galleries several arms and legs to take part, ridiculous prices, these events tend to feature anyone and everyone willing to hand over that outrageous arm or leg, fairs like Moniker or Frieze and the rest charge artists and galleries outrageous fees to take part, they’re mostly about the cold hard business of art, they’re very much about money (the so-called Affordable Art Fair is never affordable for an artist) and the Art Car Boot Fair is a vital part of the antidote to all that hypocrisy and one of the most important things about the Art Car Boot Fair is that it allows relatively unknown artists to sit next to internationally renowned names with everyone on the same level, the Art Car Boot Fair is a massive platform that allows fresh exciting artists to engage, the Art Car Boot Fair is vital actually. Vital, especially in light of the way the very closed gallery system works in this country now, vital in the way it continues to carry the vision of Joshua Compston on when so many other have forgotten about his ideas of a better Woolworths and art engaging.
There’s a sense of quality at the Art Car Boot Fair but there’s never a feeling of aloofness or snobbery, there’s street art flavours flowing next to the high-end contemporary painters or those whose art is seasoned with craft or with performers or situationists or the brilliantly English anarcho-romanticism of the Binny Sisters or the excellently inspired knotted handkerchief kiss-me-quick seaside take on things from C.A Halpin or those bull-terrier paintings of Ray Richardson or the slick (some might say too slick) letter forms of one time graff-vandal Ben Eine or the bright graphic colour of Frea Buckler Just a whole load of working artists united in their commitment to art, to their art, to the event as a whole – just a whole load or artists enjoying themselves, enjoying the engagement and hopefully a whole load of people enjoying exploring the art. I get the impression the people who come along enjoy it, I get the idea that most people who come along would say they enjoy it, that they enjoyed the engagement and the grabbing of a “bargain”, I get the idea that most who come along think the Art Car Boot Fair to be good thing, I see so many people who come along year after year, I like ot think we’ve bewcome friends with quite a few of the familiar faces..
I like to think that the Art Car Boot Fair is a good thing, a very good thing, I make no secret of the fact that I love being part of it. And the Folkestone Triennial looks to a very good thing as well, although we didn’t get to see much of the Triennial itself this time (it really is a frantic day for us participating artists). We did get to see some of the very colourful house installations of Richard Wood, the houses are very visible, impossible to miss, as are the debates they engage with. The Antony Gormley figures are hiding underneath the harbour arm where the very evocative station once was (very emotional walking on those old platforms and those last bits of English soil that so many others walked on), I do hope the developments and developers respect how important those platforms are, how much history and how many lives are involved in every step taken on them, not jsut another old railway station, far far more than jsut another old railway station. There’s evidence of Bob and Roberta’s art school ideas that are part of the Triennial all around and apparently the exhibition itself is alive with people making and engaging with art up on the hill in the old part of the town – the Folkestone Triennial looks to a very good thing once more, shame we didn’t get to see that much of it, we did enjoy Folkestone though, hopefully the rather special town continues to evolve in the right way for the people of Folkestone, we had a great time, thanks for being so friendly and welcoming, thank you Folkestone and long live the engaging spirit and excitement of the Art Car Boot Fair and the doing of it all the right way… (sw)
Click on an image to enlarge an image or to run the fractured slide show (photos from the phones of Marina Organ, Sean Worrall, Emma Harvey and Quiet British Accent)