Last Thursday myself and the other cu•rate ladies enjoyed an evening packed with art, cocktails and taxidermy classes – something no night would be complete without. Having left Whitechapel Gallery’s Season Opening in east London, we arrived at the fair quite late. As we entered Ambika P3 the atmosphere was buzzing as it always has in previous years of the fair. We were warmly welcomed by the lovely ladies at the front entrance, which was closely followed by a lively reception from the DJ of the night: Mademoiselle Jayne and Radio[lab], who mixed a range of hip beats to get everyone in the mood for finding ‘the next big thing’ in the art world.
Our first point of call was to find cu•rate artist James Thurgood who has been exhibiting at TOAF for the last few years. After dashing past several stands – many of which I was looking forward to coming back to – there James was, standing with a backdrop of gold and beaming to see that we had made it to the Private View. After some brief hellos we left James to business and discovered the Pop-Up Bar not so far from his stand. Here we found quirky cocktails in jam jars to accompany our wander around the fair, where we then split up to independently meander from stand to stand.
In addition to James’ stand – which was very well put together and visually stunning – there were several artists that I came across who had most intriguing work. One of which was artist and photographer Vikram Kushwah. I was immediately attracted to his photographs because though they are striking and capture the notion of the romantic, there are underlying themes of darker narratives. These simultaneously carry odd sensations of nostalgia and the uncanny. Visually beautiful and thematically mysterious, I was very tempted to purchase one of his photographs – but the student budget curtailed such joys.
Other highlights of the fair included the Art Wars series of Stormtrooper helmets drastically transformed by several different artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman and Joana Vasconcelos. None Zero One were another collective which stood out at the fair this weekend. Existing as an interactive, performative cooperative, None Zero One hosted an audio piece which encouraged visitors to ‘break the rules’. This certainly shed some light on why exhibiting artists – including James – had work physically assaulted and ruined. Of course, security were on top form and led a chase through the centre of the fair which caused a ruckus of gossip amongst other artists and visitors.
Towards the end of the night we regrouped at James stand, where Tracey Emin was close by signing copies of her limited edition sculptures and prints. Here we were greeted by friends of James’ Jarred Henderson and Rich Morrell who work at Wayward Plants, a landscape practice bringing together artists, designers and urban growers. Coincidentally, Wayward Plants have previously collaborated with partners of our Curating MA, Whitechapel Gallery, on the Spirit of Utopia exhibition last summer.
Finally as we left the lower floor of exciting artists jigsawed together, we bumped into the lovely Zanny Mellor. Zanny is an artist working with ideas between geography and memory of place; she presents these themes through the use of distinctive blues and turquoises which are suggestive of rivers, lakes and glaciers she has visited. We recognised Zanny from cu•rate’s Twitter and said a quick hello and had a chat about the happenings of the evening.
As in previous Other Art Fairs, we had a great evening meeting interesting creatives and seeing new and inspiring artworks. If you didn’t make it to The Other Art Fair this year, then put it on your to-do list for next year!
Phoebe V. Bradford