We’re not in Kansas any more, we’re not in Brick Lane either, we’re in some kind of futurist science-fiction-fuelled alternative vision of Kings Cross, it seems far more futuristic than it was (not far from here) last year. Kings Cross was once such a beautiful wasteland, it was our playground, Kings Cross was alive with music back then, alive with Bagley’s Warehouse, with people, with punk rock, this side of London was alive with art and warehouses and squat gigs and it really isn’t ours any more – Big cranes, big towers, big security guards, nothing out of place, everything “perfect” and a place for everything. It doesn’t even look like Kings Cross now – plush new-builds and (very) fancy architecture where once there were real people, I guess we should at least be pleased they’ve used some of the old buildings rather than just pulling them all down? Really don’t know what to think of those gas holders though, what is going on there? We’re back in Kings Cross for this Summer’s Art Car Boot Fair and the times they are very much a changing, the phone wants to monitor our every move, “Why are you here?” asks the damn device, we’re here for the Art Car Boot Fair but that’s none of the damn phone’s business – this is about the reality of art, get off that damn phone, go demand some texture, a little more than a flat screen and a digital image, a little more than something to “like”
It feels almost defiant now, the Art Car Boot Fair was once the high-strung anarchic thing of beauty that the strap-line claims it still is, times are a changing though, the spaces where the anarchy took place are all but gone now, most of the artist-led galleries are gone, a lot of the people are gone as well, these are different times, slicker times, you might say there’s something slightly “fake” and a little “unreal” about these times we’re in – these days really are all about the ‘likes’ and the followers and the on-line photos and there’s the line for the L-13 Workshop Real Not Banksy Front – you have to love the mischievous L-13 take on almost everything, the defiance is still here – long live L-13! There are changing days though, these are the days of the Young Art Collector wanting us to follow him or her for his or her social media tips on his or her good taste in art apparently he or she bought a print for £150 so he or she is way way cooler than you or me – these are different times, the heart and soul is torn apart, is there any kind of real love in the air? The Summer of what? But you see, the Art Car Boot is running with it and at the same time confronting it all head on in just the right way, the long-running fair is dealing with the changes in just the way it should, in the only real way it really can and that is why the Art Car Boot Fair still very much matters here in futuristic Kings Cross in 2019 . Sure, It isn’t the same now, how can it possibly be? But in so many ways the Art Car Boot Fair matters far more now than it ever did – it matters that there is an almost defiant heart and soul here, that there is so much heart and soul poured into the things painted and agonised over in the weeks and months before hand – the heart and soul of the painters, the printers, the makers, the doers, it feels like it matters more than ever, it feels almost defiant to be here doing this right here and right now
There’s familiar faces, there’s new names, old names, new artists, there’s familiar fair followers, there’s lines of people, sleeping overnight to get in first? Are you mad?! There’s a big queue again when we get there at breakfast time to start setting up – 8am and there’s people who have been here for hours already and hey, maybe there is some love in the air? There’s certainly love poured into the things people paint, the things artists make, the wonderful creations of the Binnie Sisters, the drawings of Laura New, the energy of the paintings of Paul Sakoilsky or Gina Birch or Susie Hamilton, love in Emma Harvey’s thoughts of what Joan Jett might do? Oh look, it really is impossible to go pick out everything that’s exciting, to mention everything we loved at this year’s fair, never did get to see what Frea Buckler had to offer, never did catch up with they guy from Granny Takes a Trip – there is so much here, there’s the tongue-in-cheek pop art edge of Pure Evil, there’s the birdseed of Kate Halpin. do like what Etta Voorsanger-Brill was doing, we kept seeing “She Resists” all day, we had to go find out who it was – there was the Keeler Tornado car and those kiss paintings, there was Twinkle and Tinsel looking very EU blue, there was those Marcus Harvey pieces – it really is impossible to pick things out to remember everything and, as one of the artists actually talking part (as I am), it really is impossible to get out and see absolutely everything that’s going on. From our Cultivate boot we can see the Misfortune Teller over there, we can see (maybe just a little too much of) the rather inspired “70’s purvy Tennis Yoga” that’s going on in such an eye-catching way just to our right (where did she just put that yellow ball?), we can’t see much beyond our corner though and the day does keep us deliciously busy in our own boot, impossible to get out and see and cover everything, impossible to tell you about it all
You see the Art Car Boot Fair has always been about lots of things but mostly its just one hell of a lot of fun. Fun to be part of it, the fun that art can be, the fun of making art for it, fun to be had in people watching from behind the stalls, the fun of meeting new people, to see people you haven’t seen since last time, to see fellow artists in a little bit more of a relaxed state than they might be in at a more formal gallery show – and yes it is fun to leave with bags and boxes a little less bulky than they were when we arrived laden with art at the start of the day (we had a good day, the rent will be paid on time this month).
The times are a changing though and if we’re honest, with everything that’s going on in the world right now, what with Brexit and Trump and global warming and the prospect of Boris and so many things broken, it doesn’t really feel like a second summer of love, it is a little difficult to get with the “Love” theme of this year’s fair, more about survival. and no, it doesn’t quite feel like it did in the anarchic DIY days of Brick Lane here in futuristic Kings Cross where we’re surrounded by giant cranes and towers and security guards and slick buildings (where are the little shops? Where do the people who actually live here go for a pint of milk or the morning paper? Surely they don’t get everything via their phones and an Amazon delivery drone?), I guess what they’ve done with the former wasteland is in some ways impressive, there’s certainly some clever looking architecture, it feels cold though, it doesn’t feels like these are our places now. art is having to adapt, the Art Car Fair is a slightly different beast now, it does feels a little defiant to be here underneath all these giant cranes, it is good to be here, it is good that the fair goes on – and on days like today we should always remember Joshua Compston, one of the pioneers of the 90’s East London art scene, one of the real movers, the original Art Car Boot Fair evolved out a fair in mid-90’s, an art fair called a Fete Worse than Death, it devised by late lamented Joshua, always good to have a moment for Joshua Compston on a day like today.
“The Art Car Boot Fair has taken place annually since 2004 and in that time has featured literally hundreds of artists from Turner prize-winners to emerging young artists, and more recently the cream of the urban art scene. The idea is simply that the artists show up in person to flog their specially made just-for-the-day wares. It’s all run like a club where all the participants are invited by us or recommended by other booters and, unlike any other art fair, there is no financial transaction between the artist and the organisers. They simply show up and take what they make. The project is run on a sponsorship model and as well as funding the event, the sponsor also provide production funds for invited artists. Art Car Boot Fair founder Karen Ashton produces the events with her sister Helen Hayward” – and that is important to mention, most so called art fairs are nothing but cynical commercial business events, no real curating involved, any artist can take part just as long as they’re willing to stump up the (often four figure) sums that the Others and Affordables and Monikjers and such demand, the Art Car Boot Fair is about the only art fair where the artists or the galleries aren’t charged stupid money (or indeed any money), the only fair where we’re not treated as mere cash cows – the Art Car Boot Fair is curated by artists for artists and for those who really do want to explore art in a relaxed friendly party-vibe kind of way – see, it is about love – love your art, love your artists, love your organisers, it really is curated on the strength of nothing but the love of art and people and the act of gathering together to celebrate it all – and art, as we know, when art is done right, is a force for good. It matters more than ever that the Art Car Boot Fair is here and alive and in good health, rude health, defiant health, love it!.
Not sure I can find any kind love for the damn tube hunters though, those people who rush in for their latest print-in-a-tube release then walk right out again with their tubes under their arms and their noses in the air, way too cool to be bothering to even look at anything else. I must admit I’m not a fan of over-slick print runs mass produced at some print factory rather than by the artist’s own hand – not a fan of everything “perfect”, and an unlimited limited edition, I don’t get the lust for an over-slick Ben Eine print that looks like the hundreds of other over-slick perfectly printed Ben Eine prints from the perfect “limited edition” print workshop – everyone to their own though, give me the imperfection of a lithoprint produced directly by an artist like Julia Maddison any day, give me a print where every single one is slightly different, where each one is alive with the finger print of personality – better still give me a one off painting or a piece hand made and never ever repeated, give me “mistakes” and dirty fingerprints and a risk or two taken, enough with the graphic designers. No. I don’t get the tube-hunters – had a brief chat with a “collector” at last year’s fair, he says he never takes the prints out of the tubes, he keeps them on top of his wardrobe in his bedroom in the hope that the price might go up, saw him go past again this year, heading for the exit some thirty minutes in with six or seven tubs under his arm, each to his own I guess, I bought a print with chips on it, had to go through every single one of them to find the one I wanted, I chose Chips, although I do love Joan Jett…
So the 2019 Art Car Boot Fair (almost defiantly) happened underneath the towers and the cranes and the noses of the security guards in the “perfect” world of the future over in an almost unrecognisable Kings Cross – it wasn’t quite love, it isn’t quite like it was but in many ways it is far more important that the Art Car Boot Fair should still be here and that it should be here and happening in such a positive almost defiant way, that it should be happening is this architects dream of a heartless square – a defiant fair, a unique art fair alive with heart and art and people and creativity and yes, there was love – an excellent day, a defiant day, a glorious day, brilliant, loved it, loved being part of it, loved going to it, loved making art for it, it is still anarchic, it is still anarchic thing of beauty, it was full of love, long live the defiance and the attitude of the Art Car Boot Fair, never mid the tubes, chips with everything… (sw)
Do please click on am image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show (I make no apology for there being more photos of the fruit than anything else, why should I?)