The Other Art Fair London’s Fair Manager Featured in The Week


Jessica Chow on The Other Art Fair

The manager of the international fair’s UK edition talks female representation, and how it is increasing via alternative outlets

As a woman working in the arts it’s frustrating to see the ongoing lack of female representation in the established art world. Male artists still vastly outnumber female in leading cultural institutions and blue-chip galleries worldwide.

Over the past decade, just 12% of the Gagosian Gallery’s shows were by female artists and only a third of the artists representing Britain at the Venice Biennale have been women. Women make up 20% of the Whitworth Manchester’s collection and just 4% at the National Gallery of Scotland.

The international push for equal representation is helping to shed light on imbalances in a wide range of professions. And in the art world a new breed of female artists is bypassing the prejudiced, traditional system and taking success into their own hands.

Ten years ago, gallery representation was the only viable way to earn a living as an artist. However, the art world is changing and galleries are not as indispensable as they used to be. The growing number of online platforms and artist-led fairs offer an alternative, a way for artists to sell work directly to buyers – Saatchi Art, for example, houses over 60,000 independent artists online. And as The Other Art Fair rapidly expands across the globe, with each edition seeing application numbers rise, the majority of artists featured are women.

Across seven editions of The Other Art Fair in 2017, the lowest proportion of female artists on display at a fair was 51%. The highest was 70%. We are beginning 2018 in a similar fashion. In our four upcoming fairs this season (LA, London, Sydney, Brooklyn) between 51 and 62% of the artists on display will be women. What’s more, at our most recent London fair women accounted for the majority of top-selling artists. This proves that in an environment free from historical bias, female artists can be both fairly represented and extremely successful.

There’s some really exciting talent on display at our upcoming London edition, including Sara Dare, whose abstract acrylic paintings will most likely be the largest canvases at the fair. Her fluidity and ambiguity of form create a mesmerising sensory language. Printmaker and recent graduate, Helena Park, weaves cultural and religious iconography into her anthropomorphic, figurative work. Edging on the grotesque side, her intricate etchings tell a story combining the mythical with real life.

Art is a powerful tool for communication in itself, and many female artists are using their work to provoke change, question social constructs and celebrate female existence. New fair artist May Parlar uses photography as a tool to create different narratives of reality, to meditate on the human condition in a playful way. Her staged scenes, often featuring women, question the socially constructed, exploring fundamental concepts such as identity, gender, vulnerability, belonging, and alienation. Returning exhibitor Victoria Topping celebrates female existence in pieces like Mother and Ladies for Love. Her combination of modern technology and traditional methods of printing create pieces full of colour, life and energy.

Of course, for some artists, their aspiration will always be to work with a gallery or feature in a permanent collection. But the opportunity to establish direct relationships with collectors means increasing numbers of artists are eschewing traditional routes through the art world. And in a world where female artists have too often been excluded, women now have the choice to exhibit, sell and succeed in new and innovative ways.

JESSICA CHOW is the UK fair manager of The Other Art Fair, which runs from 22-25 March at Victoria House, Bloomsbury;

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