sat 24/10/2020

Artist-run spaces enjoy the fun of the fair | reviews, news & interviews

Artist-run spaces enjoy the fun of the fair

Artist-run spaces enjoy the fun of the fair

Sluice Art Fair presents an alternative to the frenzy of Frieze

Richard Paul's 'Gumdiver' at Sluice Art Fair Courtesy Theodore Gallery, New York

Whilst acknowledging the huge impact the Frieze Art Fair has made on the cultural landscape of the capital since its inception in 2003, the frenzied annual event definitely doesn’t float every art lover’s boat. With about 170 – mainly blue-chip  – galleries occupying a sprawling 20,000 square metres, the posh Regent’s Park marquee can make the experience of looking at contemporary art feel like a trip to Westfield.

Whilst acknowledging the huge impact the Frieze Art Fair has made on the cultural landscape of the capital since its inception in 2003, the frenzied annual event definitely doesn’t float every art lover’s boat. With about 170 – mainly blue-chip  – galleries occupying a sprawling 20,000 square metres, the posh Regent’s Park marquee can make the experience of looking at contemporary art feel like a trip to Westfield. And unlike the designer shopping mall, if you’re planning on seeing it all in a day it’ll cost you £27 just to window shop.

There are a few satellite fairs hoping to catch some of the Frieze buzz this month, whilst also trying to keep things a little more sanely accessible. The newest kid on the block is Sluice Art Fair, which presents a genuine alternative. Described by its founders as “both exhibition space and platform for discussion and creation”, the fair is the brainchild of curator Ben Street and artist Karl England. It sets out its stall in Mayfair for the first time this weekend (Oct 15-16).

It features an open layout, which means there’s plenty of scope for expansive installations

The key difference between Sluice and other art fairs is that it focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on artist-run not-for-profit spaces. The galleries taking part this year include reliably top-notch spaces Transition Gallery, Fordham and Studio 1.1.

Unlike Frieze, it also features an open layout – so no individual booths – which means there’s plenty of scope for expansive installations, performance works and screenings. It’s free to visit, and as well as talks (including an artist-led discussion on the nature of art fairs, their relationship with galleries, artists and the public), there are art-making educational activities for children and young people. All of which means there’s a genuinely inclusive feel about it.

And if you’re wondering about the name, it's a reference to the old River Tyburn: running underground from Regent’s Park to South Molton Lane, the unseen waterway connects the two fairs – a bit like a sluice. 

The key difference between Sluice and other art fairs is that it focuses primarily on artist-run not-for-profit spaces

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