If you are an art lover or tuned in any shape or form of the art world, the chances are greater that you have already heard or visited one of the initiatives organised by Made in Arts London (MIAL) or perused some of the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) editions in the UK, around the world or browsed their website and social media channels.
It was a captivating experience to be welcomed with the installation Can you smell the petrichor or is it just the blossoms? at the entrance of the spring edition of AAF Hampstead, as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. It’s a commissioned piece made up of a series of translucent steel mesh sculptures by emerging artists Victoria Yeo and Pei Yi Goh; the Central Saint Martins/UAL students are the winners of an open call organised by MIAL earlier in the year for the event.
Before the fair, we spoke with Katie Hughes, the arts programme manager of Made in Arts London, and her arts programmer colleague Lotte Dawson, as well as Rosie Hass, marketing manager for AAF-UK, and learned more about that collaboration and some of the other initiatives they have been working together for many years now.
Back in the time, in 2011, Made in Arts London, a not-for-profit enterprise, was launched by UAL alumni Kate Rintoul and the Arts Students’ Union sabbatical officer Robyn Minogue after securing a £10,000 fund from the National Union of Students (NUS).
Although the project founders have moved on from the enterprise since then, their dream project has continued, and is now managed by other members of the Arts SU (Students’ Union).
From their initial goal of learning more about how they could sell their artwork, Made in Arts London has evolved into a two-year professional development programme, encompassing many of the practical and operational aspects of an artist’s life, which is open to all UAL students.
The programme includes how to price their work, brand themselves, packaging, leading times, good customer service experiences, keeping customer expectations, and much more.
Lotte looks after several aspects of the organisation, including social media channels and newsletters, and together, she and Katie oversee a wide range of workshops, talks and activities, such as the curation and all the elements that are necessary for their artists’ exhibitions in physical or online spaces, as well as the online shop.
They are always looking for new ways to improve the students’ journey and professional skills whilst securing new partnerships or innovating with the ones already existent, as in the case of their joint ventures with AAF for the past nine years, just one year after the fair first edition in Hampstead, in the very early stages of Made in Arts London.
“It’s been really nice over the years work with AAF. They usually give us a very prominent space at the entrance, which is amazing considering how much galleries pay to be there. Over time, we developed our relationship, exploring several opportunities to work with, building and strengthening this partnership,” Katie told us. “As we got to know each other better and how we work, they started asking us, Arts SU, to run workshops, talks, discussions panels, and open calls like the one for this year’s fair at Hampstead.”
Dana Hong, one of MIAL’s artists that benefited from the collaboration during the pandemic, gave us an example of how important it was for her to have joined the programme: Despite all the disruption caused by lockdowns, Dona was commissioned by Affordable Art Fair and created a limited-edition print for their 2020 edition. They published an article about her participation, which she was delighted with, and that has helped boost her career and confidence levels. Also adding several of her works to their online shop alongside other Made in Arts London artists.
“It is a huge step for young artists to be able to have their work in such an international E-Commerce platform that reaches thousands of people worldwide,” Katie said.
Dana is currently back in Seoul, working as a full-time illustrator as she had dreamed while experimenting with paintings and exploring other mediums. At the same time, she is participating in different exhibitions, applying many of the skills she acquired in the MIAL programme.
“At school, they don’t really teach you those skills. Our final MA exhibition was purely for the academic purpose, whilst being at Made in Arts London, was a real-life experience,” Dana explained.
With almost 23 years’ experience, the Affordable Art Fair’s mission is to democratise the art world by making art accessible to all. Currently operating across Europe, America, Asia, and Australia. With fairs in Sidney, Melbourne, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Brussels, Hamburg, Stockholm, and London, with editions in Battersea and in Hampstead all over the year.
In Rosie’s words, AAF is “a gallery led fair, that enables our galleries to support their artists. Exclusively supporting living artists”. She tells us how they are proud to be able to be offering the space and collaborating with Made in Arts London in so many initiatives, “particularly because is the first very exciting moments for a lot of the students and it is amazing for our visitors to be able to talk with them. Finding out what their practice is about it, their aspirations and how they do their work.”
“Working for Affordable Art Fair whilst still at university studying my BA in Fine Art allowed me to glimpse an insight into the inner working of an art fair and its function in relation to an artist career, exposure, collaboration as well as the value of pricing yourself appropriately,” said Sebastian Chaumeton, who participated in the AAF Hampstead edition in 2019 through the Made in Arts London programme.
“The ‘business’ side of art can feel very sticky as a student, but AAF is a great starting point that feels more grounded in the public sphere as opposed to an expensive and therefore exclusive art market.”
Rosie told us some of the ways they work together, which can vary. This year, for example, they visited the exhibition organised by MIAL at TM Lighting Gallery, looked at some of the online exhibitions, explored the best suitable artists that can resonate with the fair audience, and gave feedback from the new Fair Director, Hugo Barclay, that helped the team to shape the final proposal.
“But everything is very much led by MIAL working with their students, curating how they want to display the works they are bringing. It is really a chance for them to go through that process of curating, thinking about how they are going to sell their work and presenting themselves to the public, which is such an important part of becoming a professional artist that often might not have the opportunity for that in the students/college environment,” Rosie said.
“I think that MIAL team are great on putting together, always very impactful stand that visitors love to see in Hampstead,” she added.
“It can be a very daunting experience for students at first, but it is such an important thing for them, to have the opportunity to present, sell and experience the real world in this safe environment,” Katie explained.
“Some of my highlights are that I see those artists really gaining that confidence about talking about their work. How they go from being very quiet at the start of the fair to by the end of it, getting into it, becoming super-enthusiastic, talking with as many people as they can, giving a real insight into the process of their artwork,” Lotte told us.
“Some of them are a bit nervous, holding back a bit; that is natural; after all, they are still students preparing for the real world. It is really amazing to see how much they grow in such a short period.”
AAF also work with different initiatives and collaborations with other curators in London for the Battersea edition, such as the ones presented last year by Pascal Anson. He is a tutor at RCA and judge of BBC painting challenges, and has used this work to bring together artists from schools and universities around the country.
One of the main purposes of this kind of partnership is to continue elevating the fair while supporting new curatorial approaches and emergent artists, and all involved are planning for these collaborations to grow and develop, and be replicated, in the future.
Featured image by J.A. Neto