London Art Fairs: A Beginner's Guide

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.

British Art Fair
Venue: Saatchi Gallery
When: Every September
Admission price: £15
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.

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.

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 & Talented Art Fair
Venue: Old Truman Brewery
When: Every September and March
Admission price: Free entry
Verdict: Now this is our kind of art fairs, both are free to enter which is always a bonus. New artist fair is where to find high quality affordable art from emerging artists. It's sister fair the Talented Art Fair is for more established artists who are already starting to make a name for themselves. Great finds abound, and we've bought work from both fairs.

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 Fair
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.

Genre fairs

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.

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.

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

Last Updated 28 August 2018