Art, Not Apart

I had some apprehensions on going to Apart (that’s Art, Not Apart) on the weekend. My problem with art festivals, and a larger chunk of the arts world, is that it’s pretending to be more than it really is. People readily apply labels like post-modern, transgressive and zeitgeist to things that are getting more praise than they deserve. It smacks of the con-artist, convincing people of the Emperor’s fabulous new wardrobe…

The whole event was hosted in the New Acton area. I had some concerns about this place. This is a place that’s undergone some heavy development in the last couple of years; the third apartment tower (actually called The ApARTments) is nearly completed. Most of the festival was hosted around and behind the Diamant Hotel. The whole area feels ritzy and promises a new “sustainable” life, for those who can afford it.

Among the first things that I see is a series of finely crafted furniture. Behind them, a crew of people were applying wheatpaste to a wall, gluing a massive paper bird falling or diving from the sky. Further in the nest of buildings, I could hear a band.

Some of the hotel rooms were available for people to put together their installations. I walked inside one and had a peek around. Most of the place was a series of stalls of various locals attempting to sell their arts and crafts to the passersby. This I didn’t mind, but it really didn’t smack me in the face of being a place to “break down the barriers between artists and everyone who is not an artist”. It’s just an art fair. Which is fine, provided it was sold to me as an art fair with some live music. Not a place where I might learn something.

There was some graffiti around the back, which was cool, because its from people whom I’ve either bought art off, or have been following/photographing for a little while. And actually caught up with some of them in the flesh, which is always nice. I finally got to meet Houl, who made the pyramid work that I bought earlier this year. Seemed like a pretty nice guy. I didn’t have the spare cash for more of his modified road signs, so I settled for some painted up long neck paper bags that have hands spelling out terrible things in Irish sign language. I also saw Abyss, who was pitching sketches out at a price you named.

And here was the pinch. At the back behind all of the graffiti and street art. Beyond this area where families had parked themselves, was this hutch. Some kind of ultra-modern designer hutch. It was the Nishi gallery. Its sole purpose was to sell apartments, particularly The ApARTments. Move through the four bookcases, loaded with expensive design coffee tablers, into an area that advertised the virtues of living in an tower sitting near the edge of the lake. Turn left and look at tiny, but detailed, models of the places left available if can afford the 400,000 to 990,000 lucre. They all have cute Japanese names like, Kami, Lela, Taiyo and Fred(?). Who wants to live in Fred? Well there were nice men in suits working all day willing to tell you the virtues of investing in these tombs for the living. It felt more like a further con. The marketing op, under the cover of an arts fair. I felt a little disgusted, but in the cathartic way. This is what I wanted, what I expected. The reminder that everything has a price tag, even the things you could probably make yourself.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the organisers in BMA’s #404 issue.

“Anything that’s passion-driven,” Dave corrects. “As long as its not commercially motivate [sic]. We’re not an arts market; we don’t want people to come here and make money, we want them to explore their own artworks.”

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