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Gavin Turk's Rebellion and the Art Car Boot Fair Christmas Wrap Party!

It was over ten years ago (way back in 2004) when Karen Ashton (Art Car Boot Fair co-founder) reached out to artist Gavin Turk about making the Art Car Boot Fair happen. Gavin had been organising artist fairs with a similar ethos since 1993. First, alongside curator Joshua Compston with The Fete Worse than Death, bringing an artists’ street market to Shoreditch. Then in 1996, Gavin organised an even bigger event: The Livestock Market - that brought over 80 stalls to Shoreditch. A couple of years later and he was taking over the Southbank Centre's River Terrace with The Articultural Show. So, when Karen asked Gavin to be part of the inaugural Art Car Boot Fair (ACBF) it was a realisation of the peer led artist fairs that he'd spent the 90s pioneering.

Fast forward to 2018 for the launch of the Art Car Boot Fair Christmas Wrap Party! (Sunday 9 December) when Gavin will once again join Karen and a line-up of top-drawer artists (Bob & Roberta Smith, Rachel Howard, Deborah Curtis, Marcus Harvey, Andrew Weatherall, Mat Collishaw - and 80 others!) for their first ever festive fair.

Running parallel to Gavin's art career, he has maintained a constant awareness of activism and social movements. In November he was arrested as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest raising awareness of climate change (it's 2018, and we still need to do this?), when he - alongside thousands of other protesters - blocked 5 central London bridges.

Here, Run-Riot talks to Gavin about the ACBF, Christmas and getting arrested to wake up the world to climate crisis!

Tamsin Omond: What’s the idea behind the Christmas Wrap Party edition of the ACBF?

Gavin Turk:
To buy some artistic - and probably quite weird - objects or artefacts as Christmas gifts for your family.

Image: Ben Eine and Hayden Kays Christmas editions at the ACBF.

Tamsin: What are you giving to your family for Christmas.

A trip to Canada. I know it’s not very good for the planet but unfortunately my eldest son has decided to spend the next few years there. So we’re going to see what it’s like, and head to places in nature where there aren’t many people around.

This will be the first time I will have seen him for months. It's been quite good with the old power of the computer: we’re actually able to spend quite long times chatting and exchanging stories about what’s been going on. We’re relatively up to date, but I suppose nothing really beats the real world - the physical space.

Tamsin: Did you tell them about being arrested?

No, but they knew about it because it got in the newspapers. There was an Extinction Rebellion in Vancouver as well which they were aware of, so it did come up in conversation for them. I’m now famous in Vancouver in a small and perfectly formed way. 

I went to a parent’s evening last night (in Hackney) and my other son’s biology teacher told me to keep getting arrested, to keep up the good work. Coming from your child’s teacher this is quite weird, but we took it in the right spirit.

Tamsin: What is the Art Car Boot Fair's relationship to other art fairs?

It’s basically put together by the artists who take part in it. We are the fair - similar to the way a normal car boot fair works. Generally speaking the people that you meet and buy the stuff from are the artists themselves. In that sense it’s not very elite.

Obviously the ACBF does fill up with quite well known, celebrated artists and it's on those stalls where people tend to queue up to get a bargain. Sometimes new artists with brilliant new ideas don’t do as well as they should.

Image: Jaime Winstone and Pam Hogg at the ACBF

Tamsin: Is it really difficult to sell art in an egalitarian way in the context of the industry?

Yes, because 'selling' and 'art' are two very different things. People often buy art for all the wrong reasons. Quite often it's because they think they’re raising their status: they’re buying art for the price tag. I think they sometimes overlook that they should be buying art for what it makes them feel or think.

It’s difficult, because all the time - artists included - we’re questioning how we think, how we feel, how we experience and relate to the world. Somehow this idea of the value of things, the actual money element of things, is like a fixed point in a constantly shifting world. So, people almost don’t know their own opinions - they don’t know how to have their own opinions - and so I think they resort to the lowest common denominator.

Tamsin: Recently you were arrested as part of Extinction Rebellion's 5-bridges occupation - what do you like about Extinction Rebellion?

I’ve been continually aware of certain kinds of activism - I’ve got lots of friends who are often involved in various forms of activism. I am quite sympathetic to people who feel the need to go out and put themselves into awkward positions for the sake of their beliefs. Generally it only happens because they have good reason to do it.

I heard of this particular movement (Extinction Rebellion) and thought that it seemed well organised and incredibly pointed in the right direction and I wanted to support it. I wrote about it for The Guardian, here.

Tamsin: Is your arrest connected to your practise/life as an artist?

Not really, no - although it may be that it comes back into it. 

At one point I went to a Royal Academy opening dressed as a tramp. At the time I just thought I was dressing up, but a year or so later I realised that it did have something to do with my art.

It’s not that there is any kind of connection known to me at this moment in time, but maybe the two will come together more directly.

I feel that about my work: I make it in so many ways, it comes from different places. Later, when I’m making a book, or bringing stuff together, or looking at it in a more holistic way - I can see these massive connections across time.

Tamsin: In the context of climate change what's the most important action one person can take?

Gavin: Not to go to Canada [laughs]. I don’t know what the answer is to that because everything is contextually driven.

Extinction Rebellion is introducing the idea that people in government and people in positions of power need to take seriously that the human species is moving in a direction that will create a collapse.

Every person who decides that they’re going to try and think about their effect on the planet is making a positive diffrence. Literally taking responsibility for their actions; thinking about what they’re throwing away; what they’re eating; how they’re behaving; what power they’re using - thinking about the consequence of their living and how much they’re taking out or putting in: it all helps. 

It’s very difficult to even start to understand the consequences of our actions because I just don’t think we’re clever enough. Life is a navigation of circumstance. Where you can, you try and learn, educate, change, do as much as you can, enjoy life and - you know - that’s it. But in a way you wouldn’t know what it is until the day it’s all finished. It’s all up for grabs basically, it’s all still moving... like water.

Gavin Turk

Art Car Boot Fair Christmas Wrap Party!
Sunday 9 December, 12-6pm
The Workshop
26 Lambeth High Street
London SE1 7AG

More about the Art Car Boot Fair Christmas Wrap Party!

Highlights of the December 2018 programme include: 80 established and emerging artists, including Bob & Roberta Smith, Rachel Howard, Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis, Marcus Harvey, Andrew Weatherall, Mat Collishaw, Polly Morgan, Jessica Voorsanger, Patrick Hughes, Juno Calypso, Charming Baker, Chris Levine, Cristabel MacGreevy, Mr Bingo, Geraldine Swayne, Patrick Hero and Kristjana S Williams.

Artists will be selling work from £50 and under and will offer hand finishing and personalisations on purchased pieces. A special wrapping and postage service will also be available on-site, alongside handmade Christmas cards and decorations.

Renaissance Selfies – Designed to engage and encourage a creative response from visitors, Renaissance Selfies presents the opportunity to create hilarious portraits in an early Renaissance style.

Portraits in Plasticine – Acclaimed artist Wilfred Woods will be offering visitors the chance to have their portraits done in plasticine. Exquisite works of art in themselves, the plasticine portraits are fun and creative in their likeness, making them a perfect keepsake.

The Misfortune Teller will be offering unique Dark Therapy, personalised dark prophecies for the coming year.

10 minute portraits from Turps Painters who are offering visitors the chance to have their own bespoke, hand painted portrait to take home and all in under 10 minutes!

Live music and performances will run throughout the day, with musical sets from top DJ’s including Andrew Weatherall and Justin Robertson and an Acapella Carol- Singing Choir.

The Secret Santa Casino will give brave buyers the chance to buy a ready-wrapped present from a number of artists exhibiting on the day; visitors will have no idea what’s inside and the real fun is to be had in mailing the present direct to someone else using the fair’s special postage service. Mystery prizes, raffles, pass the art parcel and art bingo can also be enjoyed during the fair.

Numerous stalls offering seasonal dishes and drinks will be available at the fair.

Flash Sales on-line - Partnering with Vero - the cool and ad-free social network - the Art Car Boot Fair will be offering their first flash sale of super-desirable artworks on-line every Sunday throughout December. Details will be announced across all social media channels and via the Art Car Boot Fair newsletter a few days in advance of each sale.

Founder of Art Car Boot Fair, Karen Ashton comments. “The Christmas edition of the Art Car Boot Fair will be a seasonal fair like no other where visitors can buy, barter for and win an incredible array of original art works and wares in an exuberant atmosphere of frivolity and fun.”

For the full programme please visit

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