22nd – 24th November
The 15th annual Edinburgh Art Fair kicked-off at Edinburgh Corn Exchange on the evening of the 21st November. A very busy gathering, at the opening of the doors there was a queue reaching round the corner of the sizeable building. Once inside, the throngs of visitors were treated to glasses of wine or juice to accompany their stroll among nearly seventy exhibiting galleries from around Scotland, the UK and abroad, all showcasing the work of their artists – in paint, print, sculpture and photography, under the one roof. The work is all contemporary (with many of the artists present to talk with), which in itself adds a vitality to the event.
Although initially bustling, over the course of the evening the attendance quietened down, making the atmosphere more amenably convivial, those there latterly being what you might call the gallery-crowd, rather than those merely looking to make a timeous purchase. A few, such as a friend of mine, were there for a social occasion with others (there is a separate bar with tables for quieter conversation), and it’s of course an opportunity for gallery owners and staff to exchange views with their peers in a break from their usual gallery previews.
Upwards of seventy galleries have stalls here, and the mostly the works on the white walls have less-than-ideal space between them. This is both a strength and weakness of art fairs – that there’s so much to see, and so many people seeing it, but visually it can be maybe a little overwhelming, at least initially: in a temporary, denser setting the art has less space to assert itself visually, and is less ‘at home’, so to speak. The lighting will not be perfect in the way it might in a gallery (which explains the woefulness of some of my pictures). Some galleries, such as Galeria de Arte AIE (pictured) had chosen to display fewer, larger works, while some were quite densely-packed, with a variety of styles rubbing shoulders with one another.
Another thing to be expected at fairs is that it’s unlikely the visitor will find everything to her/his taste; I for instance was on the lookout for something original, essential and communicative, whereas others might be more attracted to something prettier, or more vigorous. Which is to say, it’s a mixed-bag, but for each visual downturn there will be something uplifting, intriguing and engaging around the corner; we all have different tastes, and the strength of a large fair like this is that with such a diversity of work, there will be something for everyone, and the visitor can take home an abiding recollection of a rare and inspiring work. Or even take the work itself home – all pieces are for sale, and a free wrapping service is provided.
Being there in the humble service of Artmag.co.uk, I wasn’t making purchases, but inevitably a few highlights made a strong impression: Ryan Hannigan’s letterpress machine (pictured), on which he will be giving demonstrations, showcasing his passion for analogue wood-block compositing and printing; Lucy Caster‘s observational architectural line and spot-colour digitally printed on treated canvas, seeing Glasgow Print Studio‘s Adrian Wisniewski print Man with Sausage in the flesh (long-adopted as Artmag’s Twitter banner image), and Jiri Borsky’s modest, almost cubist Guitar with Classical Frame. Also, chatting to many friendly gallery staff, among them Gallery Godo‘s owner, who had made the journey – along with numerous distinctive artworks to show – from Seoul, South Korea.
One final impression was that, for a small admission, the visitor can enjoy the best of a vast number and variety of galleries, and the greatest diversity of artists and works, under the one roof, and only art fairs such as this can offer that.
Edinburgh Corn Exchange,
New Market Road
Edinburgh EH14 1RJ