The Affordable Art Fair
(AAF) opens in a temporary structure in Battersea Park tomorrow. The fair has been staged annually every autumn in the South London park since October 1999, but in the past 13 years the AAF brand has also become a global phenomenon, spreading to cities across the world including Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Seattle, Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam, Brussels, Hamburg, Milan, Rome and Stockholm.
There are even two fairs in London now, first this week’s in Battersea Park, then next week’s version on Hampstead Heath, in the same place where the fairground is situated on bank holidays – the dodgems and helter-skelters are replaced by paintings and prints available to purchase from £40 to £4,000. On-site art workshops, kids activity packs, a free crèche and gift vouchers – and the possibility of having your wedding list managed by the fair – also make clear that accessibility is AAF’s aim.
The mainstream prices mean mainstream tastes are catered for, and works on view tend towards graphic and colourful canvases, photographs and screenprints that completely lack avant-garde credentials but are easy on the eye and will look lovely when hung on a lounge wall. For example, the exhibition at the fair dedicated to recent graduates is definitely not a display of cutting-edge young bucks eager to establish a new art ‘ism’: their works are defiantly decorative and more often than not unconcerned with conceptual interests. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine