Here at the Affordable Art Fair, supporting emerging artists and nurturing new talent has been at the heart of what we do since the very beginning. We’ve made no secret about our continued love affair with spotting raw talent and helping young artists take that first, sometimes challenging, step into the contemporary art world. This is no small feat, as we know how tough breaking into any market can be! But, we recognise and strongly believe in the importance of supporting young creatives bursting with new ideas in getting a well-deserved debut in the art scene.
So, back in 1999 when we opened our first fair, we pledged to support emerging artists at the start of their careers, brimming with dynamism, innovation and enthusiasm. Twenty years later, we’re extremely proud to have donated £1.9m worth of stand space for up and coming artists to exhibit at our fairs worldwide, as well as supporting their creative endeavours through our online spaces. Whether pairing emerging artists up with established curators, providing them with access to our digital platforms through an Instagram takeover, commissioning limited editions of their exciting work to be sold on our online marketplace, or donating free stand space to our emerging artist exhibitions; we’ve developed a number of important schemes to contribute to the art eco-system whilst kickstarting a host of creative careers.
WHY WE SUPPORT EMERGING ARTISTS
So how do our emerging artists exhibitions work in practice? Whilst this model changes from country to country, fair to fair, but in general it follows a simple formula. Either a curator goes on the hunt to find fresh talent or we launch a competition, before accepting or inviting a selection of artists to exhibit with us for free. A lot of the time, these special exhibitions house some of the most innovative, exiting works at our fairs – so in the run-up to the even we shout loud and proud to bring collectors and visitors to these exhibitions. Once the fair is over, we continue to shine a spotlight on these emerging artists, through our blog, online shop or even a bespoke mentoring programme.
Depending on where in the world you are, each of these curated exhibitions has a slightly different flavour, reflecting the local art schools and contemporary, curatorial scene. Whatever the iteration, you can rely on the best and brightest emerging artists, selected from local exhibitions and graduate end-of-year shows by cutting-edge curators. For example, in the UK, the Recent Graduates’ exhibition at Battersea Autumn – a fair which just celebrated its twentieth anniversary – welcomed back a crop of emerging talent from over the years to join its ‘Recent Graduates Revisited’ showcase. At the Hampstead fair our partner, Made in Arts London - run by the Students' Union at University of the Arts London - curate the show. Exploring a different theme each year, they curate a popular exhibition of cutting edge work, whilst inviting selected students to give further insight into the inspiration and processes behind their work through a programme of free talks.
Meanwhile, over in Singapore, the Young Talent Programme welcomes a selection of emerging artists to apply for their programme, with the top talent selected by a dedicated committee. Whilst the fair is committed to shining a spotlight on young Southeast Asian artists, at the programme’s heart is a mentorship scheme that takes place after the fair. Three finalists from the exhibition move onto the second phase of the programme: a ten-month mentorship with a programme curator, leading up to a solo show at the ION Art Gallery. This scheme allows each artist to reflect and develop their creative practices whilst enjoying the unique opportunity to work closely with a curator.
Wherever in the world our fairs are, without a doubt, a big part of why we create these programmes is to connect fresh talent to art buyers, meaning our fairs are fabulous hotspots from which to find rising stars. As Fair Founder Will Ramsay stresses, “I definitely recommend you visit one of our art fairs – I love them!... You meet the artist at a crucial point in their career, when they are at their most energised, excited and often, brave – so it’s really the perfect place to snap up a future investment, without breaking the bank.” With many exhibitors fresh out of university or art college, the fairs are often the first time these artists gain large-scale exposure. Crucially, artists are supported through every step of the way: from the operation and logistical aspects, the curation and hanging to marketing, press and sales. Because we encourage artists to sell their own work on their stands, they’re also able to gauge reactions to specific works on-site, which can prove invaluable feedback.
At the same time, whilst it’s of course important to sell artwork at the fair’s themselves, it also provides artists with the opportunity to build up a client base and spread the word about their work once the fair closes. Affordable Art Fair New York's Fair Director, Vanessa Seis, explains the fair’s Young Talent Exhibition is crucial: “It's really important that emerging artists use these exhibitions to meet potential galleries who may consider representing them or get to know clients and collectors who in turn fall in love with their work. In this way, we can help young artists develop beyond the fairs, helping those young artists connect with an art loving audience that will continue to support them as their career grows.”
What’s more, we know this system really works. To mark our 20th anniversary last year, we caught up with Andrew Salgado, who started his career back in 2009 at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea’s Recent Graduate show. Ten years later, he is represented by Beers Contemporary, regularly selling out of work at his exhibitions and was described by former chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Ivan Massow, as a ‘genius’! Andrew reflected on how vital the art far had been to his initial steps in the contemporary art world:
“Having an influx of attention helped catapult my initial sales. I remember selling works at the Affordable Art Fair to buyers from London and Germany for £3500, which was so thrilling at the time. It’s intimidating how fast after university an artist needs to become a real-world business person. Any push in the right direction is momentous and I have to say my university education didn’t prepare me to become an artist. If it wasn’t for that initial Affordable Art Fair, it is conceivable I would have left London, which would have been a huge shame as I just love it here.”
So, the next time you see a feature highlighting the work of an emerging artist, either at one of our fairs or through our online marketplace, do take a few moments to pause, consider and understand the concepts behind their work. No doubt, they will push you to consider the direction contemporary art is moving, but if you’re lucky they’ll also present you with a purchase to treasure forever, safe in the knowledge that you’ve supported an up-and-coming name, helping them to continue their career.
Emerging artist, Mónica Hernández, who was invited to exhibit at Affordable Art Fair NYC spring 2019
Featured art from first to last:
Groundbreaking live work in the Emerging Artist exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hamburg 2019.
The Made in Arts London stand, curators of the Emerging Artist exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hampstead.
The winners of the Young Talent Programme 2019/20 are announced at Affordable Art Fair Singapore.
An exciting installation, part of the Young Talents Victoria exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Melbourne, is photographed by a visitor.
A guided tour of the Art & Beyond exhibition of emerging artists work, at Affordable Art Fair Brussels 2019.