RT @CamdenPT: "Safety is a priority. Comfort? No. Which is not to say Trigger Warning is just uncomfortable, it’s a lot of things." Check…
view counter

Bringing Art to the Masses: Karen Ashton on the Art Car Boot Fair

Image: Art Car Boot Fair founder Karen Ashton. Photo: Nick Cunard

Since 2004, Karen Ashton and Helen Hayward have brought art to the masses in the form of The Art Car Boot Fair, a DIY approach to art selling and bringing together emerging and established artists. The fair, then called The Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair, began in 2004 and the original idea centred on the energy and spirit of a wonderful artist’s garden fete event led by Joshua Compston called The Fete Worse than Death in 1995.

The format is simple. Everyone shows up with a car to flog their creations, and there is no special treatment given to participants regardless of their reputation. Art Car Boot Fair is a refreshing model at a time when commercial art fairs cost a fortune to participate and attend, with astronomical prices even for first time participants. As this happens often in everyday locations from car parks to squares, its setting entirely welcomes those in the know and the art curious, all trying to score a bargain from the likes of Turner prize-winners to emerging young artists and street artists of all kinds. Previous editions have seen themes like ‘The Original’ introduced. In this case the founders wanted to encourage original works of art as opposed to editions by established artists. An interesting proposition bridging the gap between affordability and owning a piece of remarkable art.

Run Riot talks to Karen Ashton, founder and art enthusiast who has kept the fair going for over a decade, constantly rethinking its future and sticking to its original ethos of ‘no financial transaction between the artist and the organisers.’ A democratic model for the not-so-democratic art-value world we live in today.

Image: Hayden Kays, Kiss of Death, 2018 © Hayden Kays, courtesy of Jealous Gallery

Jareh Das: What inspired you to use the familiar format of a car boot sale as a model for an art fair?

Karen Ashton: Our model is to take the idea of an art fair and to cross it with the traditional Sunday morning car boot sale. An art fair is by its nature temporary but tends to mimic the gallery space with white walled booths etc. We are the rodeo to the average Art Fair’s gymkhana – we roll in to a space in the early morning, a frenzy of artists set about preparing their pitch for a midday opening, the crowds rush in – everyone sells, barters, interacts and has a good time then the whole thing is packed away and rolls out again by sundown. We were inspired by street art events like the legendary 'Fete Worse than Death' and Gavin Turks’ Articultural shows – we like to bring serious bargains to the people in the most frivolous and unintimidating way.

Jareh: How do you see Art Car Boot Fair situated within the wider economies of art which continues to boom as a luxury good?

Karen: I feel that the Art Car Boot Fair is a catalyst both to artistic production and to art collecting. In the case of the former, I think we encourage artists to let their hair down, to try something new - just for the day - away from the strictures and expectations of galleries and the main market... And as for art collecting – I think we get a lot of people started, getting in to the idea that collecting art that you like can enhance your life and wellbeing. It may be a luxury good in some senses, in others there’s a real joy to connecting with art and artists – it is expansive and essential. People get carried away at the Art Car Boot Fair, they go home with rolls of prints and bags of pieces, yet because the circumstance is overtly presented as a car boot sale and they bought what caught their eye, I think they think they have scored some real bargains, as opposed to being fleeced or sold to. And they’d be right!

Image: Danny Rolph, DEPART 8, 2016 © Danny Rolph

Jareh: Is great art ‘really’ affordable, as Art Car Boot Fair has attracted famous and established artists over its editions, which, also gain value over time? How have you negotiated keeping the fair at an affordable level?

Karen: Yes, great art can be incredibly affordable, and many great artists enjoy the chance to meet their public in an informal way and to barter their art. Our model is simply this - we fund the event in such a way that it remains entirely free to artists and there is no commission. All we ask in return is that they create something especially for the day and that they sell it at an astonishing price. So, the artists that you come across at the Art Car Boot Fair, however famous or not famous, are all pitching from the same square, so to speak. Granary Square this year.

Jareh: What have been your discoveries and favourite moments since you founded Art Car Boot Fair?

Karen: We enjoy all the many unexpected things that happen, like getting gate crashed by Lady Blake for example (Sir Peter Blake has been a regular ever since). My favourite, early on, was when burlesque was a big thing in London, and we decided to book a couple of acts from the Whoopee Club without really checking them out. At one point I looked up from near the side of the stage and noticed that there were women, men, children, little kids on Dad’s shoulders and so on, everyone, staring rapt at the stage and I turned around to see quite an extraordinarily frank Sunday afternoon performance by a fabulous performer called Lily White to a track called ‘An English Country Garden’. Other than that my  favourite moment every year is when every artist is in the car park and set up in time to open the gates!

Image: Kristjana S Williams, Gull Fiskar - World map 2017 © Kristjana S Williams

In terms of discoveries, it’s always very exciting when a new artist takes part and ends the day with some serious compliments and sales because it’s not about the money as much as the validation alongside established stars like Sir Peter Blake and Tracey Emin. There are way too many to mention them all though I’ll say a few that I feel have been revelations and inspirations to me: Kate Knight, Laura New, Scottee, Kristjana Williams, Geraldine Swayne, Mr Bingo, Ivan Black, Dion Kitson, Keeler Tornero, Dan Chilcott’s Knitted Swimsuit Dance Troupe and our youngest artist, the extraordinarily talented (and cool) Camille Phoenix

Jareh: Is there scope for Art Car Boot Fair to happen internationally?

Karen: Yes, we are looking at two options in Europe for 2019, one in America as well as a couple of UK venues outside of London.

Jareh: Was Art Cycle Basket Fair initiated to deal with presenting a more eco-model? How has this worked out?

Karen: In terms of eco, yes. We are simply keen to move away from the internal combustion engine and towards electric vehicles, car sharing schemes, electric Vespas and bicycles, Cargo bikes and so on. Basically, anything that can roll into a site, unload and roll out again without choking everybody! Also, the Art Cycle Basket Fair can get into places that the Art Car Boot fair can’t!!! For its launch the Art Cycle Basket Fair will be a sister event this year under the West Handyside Canopy at Kings Cross and will be packed full of exciting younger talents all arriving by bicycle! Like Ed Eustace and his Harbingers Group who are all specially customising some de-commissioned Santander Cycles for the day. We are planning a standalone Art Cycle Basket Fair for all the artists next spring.

Image: Claire Halifax, Iconic Skyline, 2018 © Claire Halifax, Courtesy of Smithson Gallery

Jareh: What do you have in store for the future and landmark 15-year edition in 2019?

Karen: Our 15-year edition is literally stacked with extraordinary art, and in our line-up includes about one third of brand-new artists to the Art Car Boot Fair including Chris Levine, Philip Colbert, Rob and Nick Carter, Christabel McGreavy Scarlett Bowman, Danny Rolph and many more. Plus, we are celebrating with a great DJ Rosta from the wonderful Black Door Agency, including Andrew Weatherall, Justin Robertson and Miranda Sawyer – so we are encouraging people to come for the art and to stay for the party!

In terms of the future, our 14 year sponsorship relationship with Vauxhall Motors came to an end last year and this year we are working with an exciting new series of supporters including Vero – the exciting new on-line social network that we feel is perfect for cultural traffic! This has given us a renewed sense of independence and adventure that we will be taking into 2019 as we establish more events at home and abroad, while taking great pains to ensure that we maintain our slightly anarchic, free wheeling spirit.

Art Car Boot Fair will be taking place on Sunday 16 September at Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AA.

To find out more about the Art Car Boot Fair, head to their website: artcarbootfair.com
Twitter: @artcarbootfair

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheArtCarBootFair/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/art_car_boot_fair/

Art Car Boot Fair Media Partner is vero.co
For iPhone
For Android


The Art Car Boot Fair 'Cross' Prize Draw
We are counting down the days to the next The Art Cart Boot Fair on September 16.

Our 2018 theme is the Cross because, if you haven’t heard already, this year’s extravaganza will be taking place in a spectacular new venue on Granary Square in London’s King’s Cross, an iconic intersection of art, culture and commerce.

A place where roads, rivers and rail meet...
In celebration and in partnership with Vero and Chris Levine Studio, we are giving our followers the chance to win a Chris Levine original artwork worth £8k+.

Chris has taken one of his modern classic ‘Cross’ pieces and tilted it to create this new dazzling one-off piece, embellished with hand applied Swarovski crystals.

Titled ‘Marks the Spot’ Chris has this to say about the artwork: 'The cross is a sacred symbol that vibrates with mystery and wisdom. It’s about time and space and the mechanics of reality and the crystals bring light into the metaphysical mix.'

The slight orientation to become an X grounds it in the present and the location of this unique event.

Sound tempting? To enter follow these simple steps:
- Sign up to Vero
- Upload your own picture embracing the theme of ‘The Cross’
- Make sure to follow Art Car Boot Fair and tag us in the picture by typing '@ArtCarBootFair' when prompted to 'Say Something'!

The ACBF team will review all entries and make an announcement of the winner on Vero and on the Art Car Boot Fair website on October 5.
Enter as many times as you like and may the best cross win!
You are welcome to interpret this theme as broadly as you like, from cross-stitch to cross-breed dogs to cross faces to hot cross buns to crossings, crossed paths, sacred crosses, cross tattoos, and of course there’s always Kings Cross itself!

The original Chris Levine artwork 'Marks the Spot' will be on view at the Vero stand at the Art Car Boot Fair on September 16th.

Learn more about the talented Chris Levine here.


Image: Pure Evil, Murakami Taxi Zone, 2018 © Pure Evil

view counter