London Art Fairs: A Beginner's Guide

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 63 months ago
London Art Fairs: A Beginner's Guide
Kinetica Art Fair, Ambika P3. Photo courtesy FAD website.
Kinetica Art Fair, Ambika P3. Photo courtesy FAD website.
London Art Fair, Business Design Centre.
London Art Fair, Business Design Centre.
Collect, Saatchi Gallery, Photo courtesy Jill Blackwood
Collect, Saatchi Gallery, Photo courtesy Jill Blackwood
Artwork of Henrietta Stuart at Winter Open of Wimbledon Art Studios
Artwork of Henrietta Stuart at Winter Open of Wimbledon Art Studios

It seems like London plays host to an art fair every other weekend. How do you decide which one's are worth going to?

One major differentiator is who's at these fairs. Some are gallery fairs where all the stands belong to established galleries representing their artists. The advantage here is that the galleries have already screened the artists and selected who they want to represent. This means that the art quality should be high, but also that the gallery will take a hefty commission on purchases. Brace yourself for higher prices.

The other type  — we'll call these artist fairs — are where the artists represent themselves. The organisers of the fair do some screening, but the quality of the work on display is usually a mixed bag. The advantages are you get to talk to and negotiate with the artist directly. This is your chance to discover up-and-coming artists before they make it big.

The third type we'll refer to as genre fairs. These are aimed at a niche, specialised market and might be the best place to go if you know the exact type of art you're after.

Gallery Fairs

London Art Fair
Venue: Business Design Centre
When: Every January
Admission price: £11 advanced booking
Verdict: One for the high rollers, you'll see artworks going into six figures that are likely to include works by notable artists such as Damien Hirst and Picasso. The level of quality here is very high and is great for browsers but only for serious buyers.

20/21 British and International Art Fairs
Venue: Royal College of Art, South Kensington
When: Every February (International) and September (British)
Admission price: £8
Verdict: A duo of gallery fairs that has one show for British galleries and a separate fair that opens the doors to other art dealers from around the world. The fairs are smaller and less populist so offer a much more relaxing environment for buying and browsing in comparison to the bustle of some of the aforementioned.

Affordable Art Fair
Venue: Battersea Park and Hampstead Heath
When: Bi-annually in Battersea (March and October), annually in Hampstead (November)
Price Range: £50 to £4,000
Admission price:  £10-12
Verdict: The title is a little misleading as the prices tend to be more towards the upper limit so may not fall within your definition of affordable; but there is usually much high-quality work on display. Most artists represented are already well established so you may have to settle for their smaller works as their larger pieces often tend to exceed the upper limit of the fair.

Pinta
Venue: Earl's Court Exhibition Centre
When: Every June
Admission price: £15
Verdict: A fair that specialises in bringing across work from the emerging Latin American contemporary art scene.  Mainly abstract and conceptual art but of a very high standard. A rare opportunity to see art that doesn't get a huge showing in the UK.

Midsummer Art Fair
Venue: Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington
When: Every June
Admission price: £4
Verdict: A rare suburban art fair with a focus on contemporary arts. A mixture of paintings, print, photography, jewellery, glass, collage and sculpture.

Art Antiques London
Venue: Kensington Gardens
When: Every June
Admission price: £15
Verdict: Another classy affair with high prices. A blend of fine art, antiques and ceramics are available to purchase.

Olympia International  and Winter Fine Art and Antiques Fair
Venue: Olympia exhibition centre
When: Every June and November
Price Range: Very high
Admission price: £20
Verdict: Sheer opulence, a chance to see how the very well off live. Everything from an elephant skeleton to halberds are available to buy.

Masterpiece
Venue: Royal Hospital, Chelsea
When: Every June/July
Admission price: £20
Verdict: It's probably unfair to classify this as an art fair as it's all about masterpieces — from art to food and on to classic cars.  This is another one for those with bulky wallets or for those wanting to see what high society is all about.

Master Drawings London and Master Paintings Week
Venue: Various locations in Mayfair
When: Every June/July
Admission price: Free entry to participating galleries and auction houses
Verdict: A collaboration between auction houses and galleries, where galleries showcase their works to as wide an audience as possible over a week before they are sold by the auction houses. As these are Mayfair galleries, expect prices to be high.

Bloomsbury Art Fair
Venue: Goodenough college, Mecklenburgh Square
When: Every July
Admission price: £10
Verdict: A much smaller niche fair consisting of only four galleries and still finding its feet.

LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair
Venue: Berkeley Square
When: Every September
Admission price: £15
Verdict: Yet another art and antiques fair and this time in the heart of Mayfair so expect sky high prices.

Frieze and Frieze Masters
Venue: Regent's Park
When: Every October
Admission price: £27-35
Verdict: Less of an art fair than an arts event. The most well-established galleries from around the world are represented and is the place to see the next modern art superstar.

Sunday Art Fair
Venue: Ambika P3
When: Every October
Admission price: Free
Verdict: Lots of emerging international galleries and a chance to see the up and coming artists from around the world. Plus free entry to boot.

PAD
Venue: Berkeley Square
When: Every October
Admission price: £20
Verdict: A wider focus incorporating art, design and decorative arts. Right in the heart of Mayfair and the prices to go with it.

Moniker Art Fair
Venue: Village Underground
When: Every October
Admission price: Free
Verdict: The Shoreditch alternative to the Mayfair opulence, designed to coincide with Frieze. Expect alternative art form emerging east end galleries.

Artist Fairs

Parallax Art Fair
Venue: Chelsea Town Hall
When: Quarterly in February, May, July and October
Price Range: c£50 to c£2,000
Admission price: £2
Verdict: The very definition of low key. This is an international art fair where up-and-coming artists showcase their work at surprisingly reasonable prices, especially for Chelsea. There are lots of talented artists on display that you might not find elsewhere.

New Artist Fair
Venue: Old Truman Brewery
When: Every February, September and November
Admission price: Free entry
Verdict: The East end equivalent of Parallax or Untitled, with a friendly atmosphere and affordable works for sale.

The Other Art Fair
Venue: Ambika P3
When: Every May
Price Range: £50 to c£5,000
Admission price: £6 advanced booking
Verdict: This is one for spotting the 'next big thing'. Artists here are unrepresented and are usually very early on in their careers. Hence, there are plenty of bargains to be had. On the flipside, the quality of the work can be variable but don't let that put you off because there are hidden gems to be found.

Wimbledon Art Studios — Open Studios
Venue: Wimbledon Art Studios
When: Bi-annually, Summer (May) and Winter (November)
Price Range: c£50 to c£10,000
Admission price: Free entry
Verdict: A truly unique event where artists let you wander around their paint-stained studios. There are usually a few hidden talents waiting to be discovered and it's an opportunity to enter artists' creative worlds.  It also stands apart for being the one of the only free art fairs on this list.

Free Range
Venue: Old Truman Brewery
When: Annually, May - July
Admission price: Free entry
Verdict: A chance to see what latest graduates in art, design, photography and fashion have to offer while they are still finding their feet. A mammoth 7 week show and all exhibitions are free.

Untitled Artists Fair
Venue: Chelsea Town Hall
When: Every June
Admission price: Free entry
Verdict: It's very hard to set this apart from Parallax as they are very similar and even share the same venue. There are a few gems to be found and art is available at reasonable prices.

Genre fairs

The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair
Venue: Battersea Park
When: Every January, April and October
Admission price: £10
Verdict: Fancy something grandiose to spruce up your home? This is where you might find it.

Kinetica Art Fair
Venue: Ambika P3
When: Every February
Price Range: c£50 to c£75,000
Admission price: £12 advanced booking
Verdict: A great mix of science and art with quirky inventors displaying their wares. Our top recommendation for browsers as you're unlikely to find these creations in any mainstream gallery.

The London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair
Venue: The Showroom, 63 Penfold St. NW8 8PQ
When: Every March
Admission price: Free
Verdict: Why buy fancy rugs abroad with all the hassle of bringing them home, when LARTA can bring them to you.

Pick Me Up
Venue: Somerset House
When: Every March/April
Price Range: c£15 to c£1,000
Admission price: £6
Verdict: This fair is all about contemporary graphic art and bargains abound with signed prints available from as little as £15.

London Original Print Fair
Venue: Royal Academy
When: Every April
Price Range: £100 to £100,000
Admission price: £12
Verdict: This is the more refined and pricier cousin to Pick Me Up.  The higher price range is justified by the more notable names and galleries represented but we prefer the edgier Pick Me Up.

Animal Art Fair
Venue: South Bank
When: Every May
Price Range: £150 - £30,000
Admission price: £8 advanced booking
Verdict: Animal lovers won't want to miss out on this one. If you're a fan of animal art then this is the place to look for that painting or sculpture you've been searching for.

Collect
Venue: Saatchi gallery
When: Every May
Admission price: £15
Verdict: The most notable crafts fair in London (though we don't know of any others). If you're looking for something that's both functional and aesthetically pleasing then this is for you.

Tribal Perspectives
Venue: Gallery 27, Cork Street, Mayfair
When: Every September/October
Admission price: Free admission
Verdict: Tribal art from around the globe. If primitivism and sculptures are your bag then this is for you.

Multiplied
Venue: Christie's
When: Every October
Admission price: Free
Verdict: Yet another print and graphic design fair but in a prestigious venue.

Moving Image
Venue: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf
When: Every October
Admission price: Free
Verdict: As video art continues to grow a chance to see the best and brightest practitioners from around the world.

Did we miss any? Let us know below and we'll add them to the list.

Last Updated 21 May 2012

Luke

Not to be glib, but the 'masterpiece' art fair... what is that defined as.  Are those guild-sponsered show where people are presenting their master-pieces... ie. the pieces they are presenting to become masters of guilds?

Simon Day

You missed off the New Artist Fair, their event at Brick Lane in Sep was wonderful, some of the artists also exhibit at Untitled & Parallax etc, but the event had a much friendlier vibe and was free entry.

Helle Møller

1:54 contemporary African Art Fair (coincides with Frieze in October)

Cristina Borrego

great and comprehensive list. Very useful. Thanks!