9 tips to make the most of Contemporary Art Fair visits.

Cathy Read Art Affordable Art Fair Battersea

Contemporary Art Fairs are a great way to see art

Cathy Read Art Affordable Art Fair Battersea
Affordable Art Fair, Battersea, UK

Whatever stage you’re at from the complete novice to art expert they are an effective way to immerse yourself in a vast array of different styles and abilities.

From Graduate artwork, to established artists. From the daring to the traditional, there is  enough variety to suit most tastes. Different Art Fairs attract different groups of art enthusiast, depending on their focus. Some specialise in galleries and others in individual artists, Depending on their selection criteria, styles can vary from the traditionalist to the more avant guarde and outright shocking. Whatever your level of interest there is always something to spark off conversations.

Recently I went to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea. The Fair is well established and features a wide variety of galleries from the local, who could have carried their paintings to the fair, to galleries from west and east coast America, Japan and the Far East. Ithought I’d share some tips on how I made the most of my visit.

1. Take a notebook and pen with you.

The first thing that strikes you is there’s a lot of art!

When you first walk in it’s overwhelming and it’s easy to forget what you have seen as you wander from one stand to another. make notes, jot down stand numbers and names that interest you and artists you admire. The guide book will have all the gallery/artist details so you can investigate anything that takes your fancy later.

2. The Guide book is your friend

Every contemporary art fair will have one along with a plan of the stands. If you’ve no idea what to see then work your way systematically through. You don’t have to start at the beginning, you could always

3. Grab a coffee and plan your attack.

Get the guide book and flick through the entries and mark the ones that capture your attention. Mark them on your guide book map so you’ll look out for them when you’re near. I did say there is a lot of art and you can sometimes miss stands you want to see when your attention is caught by something new and shiny. So if you’ve come to see that amazing Jo Blogg’s work make sure you’ve highlighted it in case you inadvertently skip an aisle. Some art fairs have little side rooms and corridors which can be easy to miss if you’re not expecting them.

4. Pace yourself.

Looking at art is exhausting. You are constantly being stimulated my new visual stimuli and there is only so much that the brain can take in before overwhelm occurs. Taking regular breaks is the key. Stop for lunch and mid afternoon break. I’ve been to art fairs where I’ve looked around in 90 minutes and been shattered. I’ve done the same fair in a day another year and felt refreshed and stimulated.

5. Be open to new experiences.

It’s easy to dismiss art as being poorly done and “nothing to it” but sometimes you need to spend time with a piece to really understand and appreciate it. This year I saw work by Bul Van Hoen. At a glance the pieces can easily be dismissed as simple blocks of colour but stare at them for a while and an image gradually emerges and becomes clearer. It’s quite a magical effect.

Bul Van Hoen via artbluestudio.com
Bul Van Hoen via artbluestudio.com

6. Ask questions and talk to the Gallery staff, even if you’re just looking.

The galleries are there to sell art and you may not have any intention of buying but don’t be afraid of talking to them. They are people too and will probably be delighted to chat, especially during quiet times. Most gallery staff and artists realise people tend not to buy on first sight, although that can and does happen. You may not be in a position to buy today but someday in the future you could be. Finding out more about art you love is the first step. If you are not planning to buy work, please be mindful of other people who are looking to buy. No gallery will be happy if you keep them talking and they miss out on potential sales

7. Pick up literature about artists and galleries you like.

Most galleries have postcards of the artists work they show. These are a great way to remind yourself what you’ve seen. You might think you’ll remember everything but with so much there, do you really want to risk it?

8. Don’t be afraid to ask about payment plans.

If you see something you really love and want but it’s outside your price range you may still be able to purchase it. There’s a wonderful scheme called Own Art which helps make art affordable. Lots of galleries participate, so ask them if they’re part of the scheme if you want to pay in installments.

9. Review once you’re home.

If you’ve succumbed to temptation, enjoy your new art. Either install it yourself or arrange to have it installed if necessary. Once you’ve done that take time to review what you’ve seen while it’s still fresh. Record information in your records of anything you really love, now is the time to do it. Cull anything that you don’t feel you want to keep and make notes on what interested you. If you want to make notes on postcards or the programme, do so.

I haven’t begun to share about all the wonderful art I saw, but I will be doing so over the next few weeks.


So that’s how I do Contemporary Art Fairs.

Did I miss anything out? What would you add? Let me know in the comments.









4 Replies to “9 tips to make the most of Contemporary Art Fair visits.”

  1. Hi Cathy

    Great post. I’ve never been to an art fair before, only ever galleries but your tips would work just as well. Great idea about writing notes on postcards as I am terrible with remembering names and titles and it is so frustrating trying to explain the painting or sculpture in detail and hoping someone knows what I am talking about!

    Looking forward to more posts


    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Debs. Glad you found the post useful. Like you, I struggle with names. I’ve also found the trend for photos on business cards and things like linkedIn really helps me with this.

  2. I’ve never been to an art fair. I’ve always wanted to I live in Indianapolis and they only happen once or twice a year here. I’m going to make an effort to really go this year.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Erica. You should definitely make the effort, it will be worth it. I would advise researching where you go first, especially as it sounds like attending one will require some effort. Go to an established on and check out the reviews, and enjoy the process.

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