The Other Art Fair brings a fresh approach to the international fair scene, putting individual artists to the fore, rather than the usual, gallery-dominated model. Launched in London in 2011, the fair was acquired by Saatchi Art in 2016 and has now expanded to four cities in the USA and two in Australia.
As the fair returns for its summer 2019 London edition – this year in the increasingly vibrant and rejuvenated King’s Cross area around University of the Arts London’s Central St Martins campus – Richard Unwin speaks to the fair’s founder and general manager, Ryan Stanier:

RU: The Other Art Fair is different to most other art fairs in that individual artists present their own work, rather than the focus being on galleries. How did the concept for the fair first develop?

Ryan Stanier: Correct, in 2011 The Other Art Fair was born from a realisation of the disparity between a London audience eager to discover the next big thing and talented artists struggling to gain recognition. Every year since we have grown and expanded, but we have always maintained our ‘USP’ as an artist fair, that direct buyer to artist relationship is really important to what the fair is all about.

RU: When and why did you develop the relationship with Saatchi Art and what does their network and partnership bring to the fair?

RS: In 2016, we partnered with Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online art gallery and this enabled us to expand our artistic reach and make that crucial integration with the digital world. All of our artists are encouraged to create Saatchi Art profiles; we then promote the artists ourselves through our own marketing campaigns, but also the incredible curating team at Saatchi will use the profile to create collections and promote the artists to their client base. At each fair we are also lucky enough to have one Saatchi Art curator who will run free Saatchi Art tours and consultations, guiding visitors on starting or developing their own art collections.

RU: The fair has a selection committee that changes each year. Can you explain how that process works and what effect it has on the make-up of the fair from one year to the next?

RS: The select committee changes for each edition and is based primarily on our location as it is very important for us to be in line with local artistic trends especially in new locations. For example, in Chicago where we recently had our second edition of the fair we had Monica Haslip – Founder and Executive Director of the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center and Academy, this is a Chicago-local charity that has been hugely recognised for its influence on the local cultural and artistic scene. The select committee can also be born from partnerships that we are developing as a fair, enabling the committee and in turn the artists that are chosen to reflect the ‘tone’ or the focus of that particular edition. For example, in our upcoming fair in King’s Cross we have Alex Schady – Programme Director at Central Saint Martins, not only where the event is being held but also with whom we have developed a partnership with in order to launch The Graduate Art Prize.

RU: The eight Central St Martins graduates competing for that prize will be presented in a special section at the King’s Cross fair. How did you go about selecting the finalists and what can visitors expect to see from these up-and-coming artists?

RS: Myself and Jess Chow, our UK Fair Manager, went to visit the graduates during their graduate shows and were really struck by the talent! The eight students that made the final selection present were chosen firstly on their merit and the ways in which they demonstrated some really interesting perspectives. Chai Sombatkamrai for example, will be presenting White Copyrighted – a self-indulgent and autobiographical work that mimics a shop and ironically sells exclusively ‘white’ items.  Secondly, what really stood out for us with these artists was the individuals themselves and the ways in which they embodied their work and were able to really further our interest in the work by talking to them! Sounds simple, but this is a talent we really want to recognise and something that is of course really central to the fair’s ethos and one that we encourage with all our exhibitors.

RU: The fair also showcases One Small Step, a special project celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, curated by Ben Moore. There are some stellar artists involved, including Anish Kapoor and The Chapman Brothers. Is that something you’ve been involved with and has it posed any logistical challenges given the profile of the artists and the way the work will be displayed? 

RS: We are really excited about One Small Step and the eclectic range of artworks that are being produced by such world-renowned artists. I have to credit the curation with Ben Moore – we have worked with Ben and Art Below on previous occasions across multiple fairs and we are always amazed at the great ideas that he conceptualises and successfully realises, we are really excited about the continued successful prospects of this relationship.

The Other Art Fair is at West Handyside Canopy & The Crossing, King’s Cross, London from 4 – 7 July 2019.


All images: The Other Art Fair, King’s Cross, London. July 2019. Courtesy of The Other Art Fair

Article by Richard Unwin