See the thing about the Art Car Boot Fair is that it really is like a proper all-the-fun-of-the-fair type fair, it isn’t just an art market, it certainly isn’t anything like those other rather formal rather cold-hearted art fair monsters, actually, what it really has become now is a kind of travelling art show, a band of artists, painters, performers, print-makers and events in different places, a community of creative pro-active people coming together and making something very very special happen once or twice (or maybe three times) a year. And it isn’t just about the art, the Art Car boot Fair is about the people, about the music, the performance, about the people watching, about a damn good day out, the fair is as much about those who come to it as it is about the artists taking part, about the friendly interaction and the way that it really is all so wonderfully accessible to anyone who wants it to be, the breaking down of barriers, so beautifully informal and slightly anarchic yet so well organised and put together in just the right way – never too big or over-marketed, never rammed down people’s throats, just there if you want it, and so well curated (I imagine it to be a nightmare behind the scenes in the months running up to it).
The Art Car Boor Fair is something unique, something to be celebrated, something that could only come from the artists themselves, for you see, the people who do do all the hard work to make it happen and keep it fresh year after year are art people, artists, there really is an art to all this, the art of Karen Ashton and her Boot Fair team. I love that it feels like a travelling fair now, that earlier this year we’ve found ourselves basking in the glorious sunshine of the rapidly evolving Kings Cross for the main London event, that we found ourselves in a beautiful forest in Sussex as part of the excellent Byline festival and that yesterday that we were returning to that old fire engine garage on the edges of Vauxhall and a great big place called The Workshop down by the river, that we were enjoying strange Christmas songs in Arabic or Swedish (or wherever it was) courtesy of Resonance FM’s very own Fari Bradley – excellent sounds to start the day as the people flowed in and art flowed along. It really did flow, flowing with the warmth of a cold December Sunday and art and people and things happening everywhere you looked. The queues to get in were big again, familiar faces in the crowd, it really does amaze us artists to see the lines when we turn up loaded with art in the early hours – it really is like a big community, artists greeting each other as we all set up, people in the crowd we’ve seen at previous events coming up to the stalls to say hello, people we only ever see at the fair (actually the atmosphere before the doors open is magical, an army of artists parking their car boots, pulling out their art and hammering their stalls together (it really is great to be part of it all, something never ever to be taken for granted), and it really is good to see the familiar faces who come along every year as well as meeting the people coming along and exploring it all a new – such a great social event, important part of the art year and if we’re being a little too enthusiastic about it all then tough, this is special, this is fun, this is how art should be, not all the time, sometimes it does need the formality of a white cube, but at least some of the time it should be like this.
The Art Car Boot Fair is becoming a treasured British institution now – and it truly defies description. Uniquely, it allows artists to collect together for a short time without genre divisions, to present their work without barriers, and just, refreshingly, put their work right there in front of the public. You can see it, touch it, buy it, no white walls, nothing but a space for the day. The result is an important – a VERY important art piece in itself. Maybe it isn’t so ridiculous to suggest the whole thing should be nominated for a Turner Prize, where else does art reach out and interact like this?. The way it works is that every year there’s one main summer Art Car Boot Fair in London, every year a main event for around fourteen or fifteen years now, for a long time it was Brick Lane, last year it was today’s venue in Vauxhall, this year it was on a glorious summer’s day and to the biggest crowds ever over in the redeveloped Granery Square area of Kings Cross. Alongside the main event there’s usually one or two satellite events, all in summer, in recent years the fair has been to Liverpool, to Folkestone a couple of times as part of the Triennial., to seafront of Hastings, to Margate for s day outside the Turner Gallery, to the Olympic Park . This is the first time there’s ever been a Christmas event, so this time the fair is entirely indoors (in the great post-industrial setting of the aforementioned Workshop), the Christmas Wrap Party is a little smaller that the main summer event,, it is however, just as intense. If there’s something that connects the artists – and they come from an extremely wide range of disciplines – it’s a certain thoughtfulness or genuineness about what they do. Somehow, it’s perfect that incredibly photo-realistic and weirdly moving paintings of potatoes (you have to see these to understand, trust me on this) share a space with a variety of cool graphic printing, absurd texts, frankly jaw-dropping portraits and drawings done with a manual typewriter, with seriously good urban art, with not so serious urban art, with cutting-edge contemporary painters, with various ceramic marvels, handmade Riot Grrrl pieces, with slightly subversive craft, with hardcore political screen prints, pop-referencing woodcuts, high end gallery level oils and lots lots more besides
The art is of course all on sale, and yes, it is way way cheaper than it would be in a gallery, and yes you do get to buy direct from the artists (and chat with them, haggle with them a little), and yes, some of it is made exclusively for the day and you simply can’t get it anywhere else, and yes (as we heard from people a couple of times yesterday) it can become a little overwhelming at times, there’s almost too much good stuff to see, actually it is rather impossible to see it all – apologies if we missed taking photos of of your stall, the photos are most the view from where we were, hard to get away and see everything.
There really is a family feel, a community, familiar faces, a band of artist hugging each other as they turn up – never stagnant though, the art and the artist list is always evolving, always refreshed, exciting new blood, young artists you’ve not heard of next to old friends and familiar bigger names – yes there are big names there, it really isn’t about the big names though, the Art Car Boot Fair is about the whole thing as one, about the hear and now, the coming together, the freshness, the attitude, the fun, that bit of treasure you bought for £20 off an artist you’ve not heard of before. True, it is mostly a summer thing, it is best in the bright daylight with the sun on your back and a drink in your hand, was it going to work in the cold and dark of December? Of course it was, once the doors were open,once the music started to flow and the queue got in to the relative warmth, of course it was going to work, brilliant day, and Marina is right, it really should win the Turner Prize, it never will of course. Art really needs to engage in the way the Art Car Boot Fair does, art really does need days like these, not dumbed down, never that, just a high-end art event that at the same time is wonderful engaging fun – excellent way to spend a cold dark Sunday in December, we had a brilliant time, thanks everyone, hopefully see you next year, never taken for granted though, love the Art Car Boot Fair, special days, thanks… (Sean W / Marina O)
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show, photos from the broken phones of the Organ team, the Cultivate crew and bits blatantly stolen from various social media feeds in the interests of conveying a hint of the flavour of it all….