A visit to London Art Fair: Considering new arts models and spaces

Seeing the title of this fascinating talk immediately made my decision to attend the London Art Fair this year.  So relevant to artbnb’s business, new venues and spaces for exhibiting artwork are becoming increasingly important for art to reach wider audiences outside of traditional galleries. With artbnb, my desire is to use holiday properties as an exhibition space that brings the enjoyment of art into people’s lives as they live them, opening up access to those who have possibly never visited a formal venue like a gallery.  I was delighted by the opportunity to hear from a panel of speakers who are already running a diverse range of successful initiatives, sharing similar desire to mine.

My first impression of the London Art Fair: Wow! An expanse of amazing art, presented at the highest level of professionalism.  Perfect for art lovers and collectors, yet a world away from the intimacy of a home-like environment with space to enjoy and reflect that artbnb strives to create.

After a thorough exploration that probably only touched a portion of the exhibitions, it was time for the talk, “Considering new arts models and spaces”.  Formatted as a hosted panel discussion, speakers included

  • Olivia Wiederkehr, visual artist and member of the board of Ausstellungsraum Klingental Basel
  • Guillaume Pilet, artist and co-founder of Tunnel Tunnel Lausanne
  • Daniel Kelly, Director DKUK London
  • Daniel J Norie, co-founder of Light Eye Mind
  • Chaired by Amber Massie Blomfield, arts producer and author

Interestingly, all the speakers are also artists, driven to share work in a collaborative, inclusive space.  Olivia and Guillaume both share similarity in that they are based in Switzerland, and with collectives of artists have transformed large disused properties, former military buildings and a bus depot, using these not only for exhibitions but also more exploratory projects, talks, workshops and concerts.  In North London, Daniel Norie has achieved similar with a former butcher’s shop.  Artist Daniel Kelly drew on training he had previously undertaken as a hairdresser to open a hairdressing salon that, rather than adorned with mirrors, exhibits art.  Daniel described how the hairdressing context opens accessibility to art, with around 70% of his clients never going to galleries yet here being happy to share reflections and ask questions about the work on display.

Each speaker emphasized the distinction between an art space from a gallery, enabling experimental projects and self-development opportunity for artists free from commercial pressure.  Discussion also turned to the role of property developers in creation and funding of arts spaces.  Although many new developments include a portion of space given to the arts, in practice it seems these spaces may only be temporary before being reused for other purposes.  Pop-up models are also becoming increasingly popular as the price of space pushes artists to find new ways to exhibit.

One final parting thought from the discussion was the role of technology, and an observation that art is relatively lagging in the digital transformation that is sweeping many aspects of life.  A space ripe for opportunity.

It was a fascinating, and refreshingly honest, talk.  I’ve brought away from it inspiration and optimism for artbnb’s future, and hope in a future year we will similarly have a host of experiences to share in this type of forum.

I shall leave you with a selection of works that caught my eye in the exhibition spaces…

Very best wishes,


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