Affordable Art Fair since the early days: Colourbox

For the next instalment of our long-standing exhibitor series, we’ve been chatting to Christine and Tom of Yorkshire-based gallery Colourbox. As well as running the gallery, they are both themselves artists and they have been participating in the fair since 2002.

Tom and Christine of Colourbox gallery

Tell us how you first started?
We started out painting together in 1996 and did a lot of artists’ fairs, like the one in Battersea Town Hall and Teddington. We quickly realised that art fairs were a brilliant way to meet lots of new customers and a great way for them to discover new art.

How did you first come across the Affordable Art Fair?
We heard about the Battersea fair in the autumn of 2001 while we were at an artist fair. Everyone said Battersea was fantastic and we thought it could be exactly what we’d been looking for. The artist fairs were good, but we wanted something set at a higher standard with a more professional edge. We called Nicky Wheeler and luckily they were just about to launch a new spring fair in 2002 and had a few stands left, so we took one.

Colourbox studio

What was your first Affordable Art Fair like?
We had no idea what to expect as we hadn’t actually visited an AAF before we arrived for the March 2002 spring fair. We were totally blown away by the scale, the quality of the work and the level of organisation. We were extremely nervous as we had taken a leap of faith to take part, but it was brilliant. We sold about seven of our paintings on the first morning!

Which Affordable Art Fairs do you now do?
We do all the UK fairs and have done Singapore three times.

Christine from Colourbox gallery hard at work!

Best thing about doing the fairs?
It’s fantastic to meet new art buyers, and of course seeing our regular customers and getting the chance to talk to them about what we do.

Funniest fair memory?
Michael McIntyre asking for a discount on a small painting at the last AAF Hampstead!

What’s next for the gallery?
More of the same we hope. We’ve decided not to do the international fairs because, as we are also artists, other galleries are happy to show our work at those, so we will continue to do Battersea Spring, Hampstead and Bristol for as long as we can. It will be our 15th Battersea next March!

Affordable Art Fair since the early days: Woodbine Contemporary Arts

As part of a new series of interviews for the Blog we’re interviewing some of our exhibitors who’ve been with the Affordable Art Fair since the early days. Here, Rowan and Liz from Woodbine Contemporary Arts tell us about how their gallery began, and the last fifteen years with the Affordable Art Fair!

Tell us how you first started?
We met at Cardiff College of Art in the late 60s, whilst studying for Fine Art degrees. I was two years ahead and took up a teaching post in Peterborough after my PGCE – Liz joined me later having graduated and also undertaken a PGCE. Neither of us stopped producing art and for a number of years we were members of the 678 artist group, which exhibited throughout East Anglia. When the group folded we both continued to paint, and on moving to our present home in south Lincolnshire, we restored the small derelict cottage at the end of the garden as a gallery space- initially to show our own work, and also that of one or two artists we knew.

Where did the name Woodbine come from?
The name of the cottage was ‘Woodbine cottage’, due to the large honeysuckle bush at the side of it – woodbine being the country name for honeysuckle. When the galley opened in 1997, it was called Woodbine Cottage Gallery, although the name was later changed to Woodbine Contemporary Arts.

How did you first come across the Affordable Art Fair?
We didn’t find the Affordable Art Fair, the fair found us! In the early days we used to advertise in Art Review and we think Will, the fair founder, found us there. The first thing we knew about the fair was when a letter from Will arrived, explaining what he was planning to do, and would we be interested in applying. Although I’d not long left teaching and money was tight, we both knew it was something we should be involved in.

What was your first AAF like?
Our first AAF was exhilarating, stimulating and exhausting. Exhilarating, because suddenly we were part of a big London event, with a large footfall and a higher level of sales than we could achieve in our small and very rural gallery. Stimulating, because like the visitors, we could see in one event what 90 other galleries were doing and achieving. Exhausting, because fairs are tiring anyway, but as our two sons were still at school, we would drive down from Lincolnshire on a daily basis to ensure that they could see us, and we could see them, every day.

Which Affordable Art Fairs do you now do?
We now take part in Battersea, Hampstead and Bristol fairs, although we have also taken part in the Amsterdam fair.

Best thing about doing the fairs?
For us the best thing about the fairs is that not only do they give us the chance to be part of well organised and well publicised events, from which we have built up a large client base, but to be part of something which, at the same time as being groundbreaking, influential and now global, allows us to still feel part of the family.

Funniest fair memory?
There have been many funny moments, but one which stands out is when, a certain lady from a certain Bristol gallery, on a quiet Friday afternoon, decided to prove that she could to the splits, and did so in the middle of the aisle!

What’s next for the gallery?
What’s next? Immediately, it is the Bristol fair, but after that, to keep pushing up the quality of what we show, and how we show it, and also to look at the possibility of taking on another Affordable Art Fair.

August arts

With so much going on over the summer months, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! Here’s our guide to the best arty activities around London this August.

Matisse cut-outs - Sunday lates at the Tate

Southwark, London
Catch the hugely popular ‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’ before it travels to MoMA in New York this September, and benefit from the Tate Modern’s new later opening hours. Described as a ‘feast of dazzling dreams’ and a ‘joyous celebration’, this exhibition looks at the paper collages that Matisse created in his final years. Crowds during the late sessions are smaller, so spend a leisurely Sunday evening basking in Matisse’s amazing array of colours.

Tickets £30, free for members, booking essential
Sunday 24th August, 8pm – 10.30pm

The Serpentine Gallery, London
You have until the end of August to see this amazing one woman performance piece. Abramovic performs from 10am until 6pm, 6 days a week, using only a few props and unsuspecting visitors. Bags, jackets, watches, phones and cameras are all left at the door, you are quite literally leaving your baggage behind and entering the new artistic space to…well we don’t want to ruin the surprise, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

SPAM by Lucy Sparrow, featured in her exhibition The Corner Shop

Bethnal Green, London
Here at the Affordable Art Fair we love a trip to the corner shop to stock up on afternoon snacks, so when we heard that Lucy Sparrow had created her very own corner shop made entirely of felt, we were understandably excited! Sparrow launched a kick-starter fund earlier this year to make her felt dreams come true, and the result is an amazing emporium of hand sewn treats – from tomato ketchup and cans of beer to The Times and tubes of fruit pastilles.

Running until the 31st August, 10am until 7pm

Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery.

The Photographer’s Gallery, Oxford Circus
If the crowds at the Malevich exhibition at the Tate don’t appeal, visit the brilliant Photographer’s Gallery just off Oxford Street for a fix of Russian art. The exhibition documents the rise of colour photography from the 1860s until the 1970s in Russia and the Soviet Union. Spanning from very early delicate black and white photographs to bright revolutionary red posters, the exhibition acts as a mini history lesson as it weaves its way through Russian photography.

Until 17 October

Notting Hill, London
A guide to the capital in August wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the biggest party of the year! Taking place in one of London’s prettiest locations, Notting Hill Carnival is a riot of colour, music, costumes and dancing. If you’re lucky enough to know a local, take a pew on their balcony and watch the world go by in a blur of feather headdresses, carnival floats and scantily clad dancers; or follow the fleet of floats winding through the West London streets, get stuck in to one of the many famous food stands, and enjoy soaking up the lively atmosphere.

24 - 25 August

Gallery life: AO Vertical Art Space

At our recent Hong Kong fair we spoke to Sarah Greene of AO Vertical Art Space to find out more about the gallery and what she loves about taking part in art fairs.

AO Vertical Art Space

What does a typical day involve?
It’s hard to define a typical day, every day is quite different and it depends on what’s coming up. In the morning I tend to reply to emails, the afternoons are reserved for meeting clients and speaking to new customers, whilst in the early evening, when it becomes dark and quiet, I tend to focus on matters that need my concentration like writing a press release, accounting, working out ideas…

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
The first exhibition I organised for AO Vertical Art Space – a major solo show with Ho Fan. It was the first important photography exhibition I staged and it struck a chord in Hong Kong. His beautiful imagery of Hong Kong in a bygone era attracted well over 1,000 visitors.

And on a personal level, the exhibition opened up a fascinating world of wonderful imagery and story telling to me and I totally fell in love with the medium of photography. I’m slowly working my way through every photography book I can find and this summer I am doing a course in photography at Sotheby’s in London. So you could say this exhibition changed my life!

Favourite part of your job?
I love to unleash my creativity when putting shows together – thinking about how best to bring the story forward and hang the artwork in an exciting way for the audience. I tend to organise exhibitions a year in advance and then spend months thinking about how to present them.

How do you find new artists?
It’s very personal and each case is unique, it can happen in many different ways. I discovered Anton Kusters one morning listening to an interview he was giving on the radio, I got out of bed and sent him an email straight away. Ho Fan’s work I encountered at an art fair in the US and I chased him and his agents for over a year. KC Kwan just walked into the bookshop one day and started telling me his story…the next day we started working on his book ‘Homebound’!

Hardest part of your job?
Administration! I don’t like spreadsheets but it’s part of the job…

Best thing about doing an art fair?
It’s a rollercoaster and gets the adrenaline going. I’m totally exhausted after a fair, but I love the madness and buzz a fair creates. You get to meet so many new people!

Most memorable moment of your career?
Every time I feel my efforts are being rewarded for all the hard work of promoting an artist – so this could be a sale, a nice review, or even just people coming far and wide to see an exhibition.

Artist you would most like to work with?
Oh there are many I’m looking forward to working with, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out who!

Gallery life: Villa del Arte

We chatted with lovely ladies Michelle Frederick and Veronica Iacobelli, who were on the Villa del Arte stand at Affordable Art Fair Battersea to find out what it’s like doing an art fair from their perspective.

Villa del Arte gallery in Barcelona

What does a typical day at an art fair involve?
We try to get to the fair early so we can make any little last minute changes to the stand and grab some coffee, lots of coffee! Then we’ll re-assess the stand; is there anything we want to change? How did visitors respond the day before? Depending on how the day goes, we might have to replenish the artwork, but our time is mainly taken up with chatting to people.

How does that differ from the day-to-day in the gallery?
It’s not too different actually! There’s a lot more artwork and a lot more people at a fair, so you have to be quicker on your toes to keep up! At the fair you have more artworks in a smaller space to organise.

Pivotal moment for you gallery?
The gallery was split over a number of different locations around Barcelona before it moved, eight or nine years ago, to the one it’s in now. I think it’s been a really good move for the gallery, it’s in a beautiful location, the space itself is lovely and it’s a vibrant area so we have the opportunity to meet lots of new people.

Best thing about doing an art fair?
Seeing different cultures, wherever you go the way people interact with the art is always different.

Hardest part of an art fair?
You always think after a fair, could the stand have been better? Did we hang it right? Did we bring the right artists? Did we put the right artists next to each other? You do rack your brains wondering if there was something you should have done differently.

How do you find new artists?
We have just done an open call for the gallery, which means we put out calls on different websites asking people to submit work. The gallery owners go to a lot of open studios and art fairs to find artists they like, and sometimes our artists will recommend other artists they know.

Favourite part of your job?
It’s amazing just being surrounded by the art, it’s such a privilege.

Gallery life: Modernbook Gallery

Bryan Yedinak and Mark Pinsukanjana, directors of Modernbook Gallery in San Francisco, tell us a little bit about their daily lives as gallerists and what they love most about their work.

Modernbook Gallery's stand at Affordable Art Fair New York Spring 2014

What does a typical day involve?
Bryan Yedinak: Checking email, seeing who wants to buy something!

Mark Pinsukanjana: We do so many fairs, we do eight fairs a year, so we’re constantly getting calls about things people saw in LA, New York, London so dealing with that tends to make up typical day. We also publish books, our artist’s portfolios, so there’s usually plenty to organise for that too.

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
MP: In 2002 one of the artists we represent said to us that we should do an art fair and we thought yeah, that could be fun, so we did. We hadn’t done an art fair before and they were just getting going in the US then. So we did one, and then we did two, then three and it just grew and now we do eight fairs a year.

BY: It really was pivotal because it’s a big part of our business now, it changed the way we worked.

Best thing about doing an art fair?
BY: Interacting with people. You can do so many things online now, you can buy art online, but the face-time is good: they can see the piece, talk about it.

MP: For me, the best thing about doing an art fair is when we sell to the first time buyer. They just get so excited, you can see it in their eyes and they are just so happy. It’s so nice to meet the brand new collectors.

BY: Yes exactly. We were there once, it wasn’t so long ago that we were the first time buyers so now we love it when someone’s like “I just can’t stop thinking about that picture.” We often tell people, especially the first timers, if they’re thinking about a purchase to actually walk away and have a think, so when they do come back you know that it’s really in their head. And nine times out of ten they come back for another piece, because they had a good experience and we were nice. It’s great building that relationship too.

How do you find new artists?
BY: That’s a good question! Typically we get lots of submissions, and we maybe take on one from every 100. It’s a shame, but we just can’t take more, once you start you’re committed to the artists you’ve got. We have this one young artist, who’s Russian, and we saw her work at a show in San Francisco and called her up straight away we loved her work so much.

MP: Yes, actually, it was a show at a university which we found out about in a newspaper, so sometimes it can be entirely by chance.

BY: That’s the thing, we know what we like and we know our clientele so well that when we do see something it’s like right, let’s do this.

Favourite artist?
MP: I collect something a little bit quirky, I collect monkeys. So I can’t say I have a favourite artist, I’m more image driven. For me art is not about who it’s by, it’s about grabbing you, what the image says to you.

BY: He has a really good collection of monkeys by the way! I love photography, and of course that’s what we sell so that’s not surprising, but I really like Ryan McGinley, Uta Barth and Matthew Brandt.

Favourite part of your job?
BY: Mine is a two part answer, I like working with artists, I like choosing the pieces we are going to show and visiting their studios. Secondly, I like working with the people who take the art home. So the fairs bridge all that, we bring the artists we like, that we think will sell and then connect with the clients here.

MP: Yep same for me! I love building relationships with clients and see them come back year after year. It’s great when they come back to see us and say they’re still so in love with the piece they bought two years ago!

Gallery life: Will’s Art Warehouse

At the recent Battersea fair we caught up with Juliet Holton, who works at Will’s Art Warehouse, to find out what it’s really like working in a gallery.

Juliet Holton, who works in Will's Art Warehouse, admiring artwork on their stand at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea

What does a typical day involve?
I work in the gallery at the weekends, so the first thing I do is to make sure everything’s looking ok, everything has labels, that sort of thing. Then I’ll check emails and at the weekend, although there’s always plenty admin to do, the priority is really the customers – telling them about the artists and their work and sending emails to interested people. You never have just the one thing to do, it’s always a mixture of different things.

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
For me, it was when we did Affordable Art Fair New York two years ago. It was a really, really good fair and by the end we had pretty much sold everything. We actually had blank walls and no stock left, it was amazing. Such a buzz!

Best thing about doing an art fair?
I love it when you meet really enthusiastic people who are just so happy and excited about what they’re buying. Even if it’s just a small print, or someone buying their first artwork, that’s what I like the most.

How do you find new artists?
Pixie, the curator, generally chooses our new artists, but I’ve recently started helping and I’ve just found a new artist called Hester Cox who is an illustrator. I found her online, which is usually where I’ll start, then go and see their exhibitions to check their work will fit with the gallery, and after that I’ll show everything to Pixie who’ll say ‘yes, no’ or ‘maybe.’

Favourite part of your job?
My favourite thing is doing the art fairs abroad. The whole experience is really fun and you get to see lots of different work and meet new people.

Hardest part of your job?
Just after a fair is always really busy. There’s lots of clients you’d like to speak to, databases to update and shipping to organise. Staying on top of it all can be quite tricky sometimes.

Favourite artist?
I like Dan Parry Jones, his work is kind of street art, mixed-media, very tactile and colourful, which is what I’m drawn too. It’s similar to my own work, so probably why I like it!

Fight for Sight – introducing our charity beneficiary for Spring 2014

Here at the Affordable Art Fair we are passionate about art, so losing the ability to see would be a devastating blow. That is why we are big supporters of Fight for Sight’s work. The charity’s mission is to fund eye research to prevent blindness and treat eye disease, in the hope that one day sight loss becomes a thing of the past.

Eyesight is an issue close to many in the art world, including artist and avid supporter of Fight for Sight, Sarah Caswell. For Sarah her vision has played a key role in doing the job that she loves, closely observing her subjects in order to create her large canvasses. So when in 2002 Sarah came close to losing her sight due to a detached retina, she realised how important her sight was to her and how easily it could be taken away.

Thankfully, due to corrective surgery Sarah (left) was lucky not to lose her sight but was left with a large blind spot. There’s also a family history of glaucoma, so Sarah feels a sense of urgency to paint whilst she still can, and she has actively supported the charity by running the London Marathon in 2011 and donating pieces of her work to help raise vital funds.

As our Charity Beneficiary for the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Spring Collection 2014 proceeds of ticket sales for the Charity Private View will go to Fight for Sight to fund research into the prevention of sight loss and the treatment of eye disease.

Many of our exhibitors are also generously getting behind the charity by donating pieces of work, or percentage of sales. A silent auction will take place which wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of; The Linda Blackstone Gallery which donated River Scene by Bob Rudd, Will’s Art Warehouse which donated White Wall, Transistor which donated a piece called Chime/Chroma by Chuck Elliott (pictured left) and to Artêria Gallery which donated Les Marseilleises by Dominique Desmeules (below).

Other galleries that are supporting the charity include Cameron Contemporary Art, Nicholas Bowlby, GalleryOne, Andrew Stark of London Contemporary Art who will all be donating a percentage of their sales at the Affordable Art Fair.

You can show your support by either buying tickets for the Charity Private View or by visiting the Fight for Sight stand at the fair, next to the café.

For tickets call Fight for Sight directly on: 020 7264 3905 or email:,



We’re a little bit in love with our latest advertising campaign, about a lady who is so moved by her beautiful painting hanging on the wall that she is trying to nurture it by watering it.*

*Don’t try this at home, it’s not the recommended way of looking after your artwork!

Huge thanks to the team behind the image:

Featured painting by Kirsty Wither, courtesy of Cameron Contemporary Art
AAF Creative Team: Connie Clayton, Jessica Hall, Ana Grigorovici
Photographer: Crena Watson
Photographer’s Assistant: James Marsden
Stylist: Kimberley Watson
Hair and Make-up: Rachel Jones
Model: Emma Witter

Art in your city: Hamburg

Our lovely Hamburg team, Oliver and Judith, give us their top spots for exploring Hamburg’s art scene in this last post of the series.

Falckenberg Collection
The Falckenberg Collection is one of the most important collections in Germany and is a must see if you’re visiting the city. Inspiring and huge in equal measure, about 2,000 works of contemporary art make up the collection and it focuses on German and American art of the last 30 years. From the mid-1970s, an art scene evolved in Hamburg and Berlin that gained in importance as prominent artists like Sigmar Polke and Dieter Roth lived and worked in Hamburg. A subversive form of essentially Neo-Dadaist art emerged that challenged the ruling system, relying in the process on irony, satire, acerbic scorn and even cynicism. So there is certainly a lot to look forward to!

The Gängeviertel
In 2009 a group of 200 people active in the arts saved a run-down historic quarter in the centre of Hamburg from demolition, and it has since become a very lively and important centre for subculture in Hamburg. At the you Gängeviertel you can wander into different and subversive art galleries, see street and urban art exhibitions, and enjoy a variety of outdoor sculptures, installations, performances, concerts, and open discussions. Even at night it is worthing heading to the Gängeviertel for a drink in one of the charming bars there.

Hamburger Kunsthalle
You can’t visit Hamburg without venturing in to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s largest and most important art museum. Its superb permanent collection takes you through seven centuries of art history, from the medieval altars of Master Bertram through to the stars of the contemporary art scene such as Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch.

The Hamburger Kunsthalle consists of three striking buildings: the brick building from 1869 with its ornamental facade, the neoclassical extension building from 1919 made of light-coloured shell limestone, and the white cube of the Galerie der Gegenwart designed by architect Oswald Mathias Ungers. From the bistro in Galerie der Gegenwart you can enjoy one of the finest views of the city and watch the ships around the famous inner-city lake Alster.

Also worth visiting is the Westwerk, an old building in the centre of the city where there is always lots going on. The programme is delightfully varied and includes gallery exhibitions, installations, performances, a music club and artist readings. Near the harbour, it’s in a beautiful spot and is an inspiring place to see.