Fairs United Kingdom

Collegiate and just a bit scruffy

The Sunday art fair offers something different from the usual commercial fair experience

White Columns is showing ceramic works by June Hamper, the 80-year-old mother of the artist Billy Childish, priced between £500 and £750

Sunday art fair (until 20 October) is not like any other art fair. Firstly, it is housed in a concrete bunker underneath the University of Westminster on the Marylebone Road in a space that was once used to test concrete for Spaghetti Junction and the Channel Tunnel. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, its organisers and gallerists stress that money and the art market are not a priority at the fair. “You won’t see any suits here,” says Rob Tufnell, one of the fair’s directors. “That’s not a stance, we are just a bit scruffy.” And even though the works of art on show are for sale, with prices starting at around £150 and rising to £50,000, the fair—which is free to enter—is not designed to make a profit, Tufnell says.

For its fourth edition in London (the fair was launched in Berlin five years ago), 22 galleries from eight countries are taking part. First timers include London’s Studio Voltaire and New York’s White Columns, both non-profit spaces. White Columns is showing ceramic works by June Hamper, the 80-year-old mother of the artist Billy Childish, priced between £500 and £750. The pots usually sit outside Hamper’s Whitstable home with plants in them and have never been shown in a contemporary art context, according to Matthew Higgs, the director of White Columns. “Our primary purpose is to introduce people to work they are unfamiliar with,” Higgs says.

Ceramics are also on show at Tanya Leighton Gallery, where a Bruce McLean installation combines large-scale paintings and vases, while Tufnell’s eponymous gallery is showing a fish tank containing live axolotls and a sunken ceramic boat; the work, Model for Gallery Peacetime—Boat Burial, 2013, priced at £12,000, is by an up-and-coming young artist called Aaron Angell. “Ceramics are becoming fashionable in the art world, but people here have been doing it for a long time,” Tufnell says.

Other leftfield works made from everyday objects to surreal effect can be found at Milwaukee’s Green Gallery, which is showing ladders made from surfboards by the American artist Amy Yao, while dead starfish studded with bright orange golf balls by John Henry Newton are on show with the Italian gallery Frutta.

A sense of humour and collegiate atmosphere permeates Sunday. “Sometimes people take these fairs a bit too seriously,” Tufnell says, pointing out that the satellite fair is affordable as well as friendly; a stand at Sunday costs less than a third of the £6,000 galleries pay for a booth in the Frame section of Frieze London. “Most people know each other here. We are friends, we sleep on each other’s floors, we carry art for each other and that’s how we survive.”

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