Affordable Art Fair: Hampstead Heath

butterflies by Anne Gournay

butterflies by Anne Gournay - Credit: Archant

Thousands of artworks go on display in a tent on the Lower Fairground

Dream Home Infra Realism

Dream Home Infra Realism - Credit: Archant

When the affordable art fair sets up its tent on East Heath Road, director Luci Noel will be overseeing her eighth event.

“Our position on the Heath and the rich artistic and literary heritage of the area all adds to the setting and makes it such a special destination,” she says.

“We are privileged to work with a lot of artists and galleries who live within a stone’s throw of the site. Many artists are inspired by Hampstead Heath so the audience is able to see the local area being reimagined in these art works.”

This year 117 gallerists “from South End Green to Byron Bay in Australia” will show 11000 works by artists including Hampstead-based Anne Gournay, Marianne Nix, and Muswell Hill printmaker Mychael Barrett.

Dream Home Infra Realism

Dream Home Infra Realism - Credit: Archant

“The range of gallerists and artists from totally international backgrounds offers a global insight into the art world,” adds Noel, who says the affordable idea started in Battersea and sprang from the experience of founder Will Ramsay. He went into a Cork Street Gallery on day to buy art, but came out empty handed.

“He had left the army and had a bit of money he wanted to invest but he didn’t feel able to ask questions and find out more.”

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He left with an idea about “bridging the gap between artist and collector, democratising the art world and making art fun and engaging,” Noel adds: “People can come to the fair with no experience of fine art, attend a workshop or take a tour and learn more.”

Back in 1996 the price range deemed affordable was £50-£2,500. These days it’s £100 to £6,000,but with a range of practices and artists from the established to students, Noel says “there’s something for everyone.”

Dream Home Infra Realism

Dream Home Infra Realism - Credit: Archant

“There is fine arts, craft, ceramics a broad range of art all under one roof, all original work - no reproductions - and all done by living artists. So it’s feeding back into the art eco system, with the money going directly into their hands so they can carry on creating more work.”

She agrees that £6,000 is not affordable for everyone but adds: “If as I have done, you fall in love with something that is out of your budget, there’s often the opportunity to pay in instalments – spreading payments over a period makes it more accessible – you forgo one meal out a month and get to live with a beautiful piece of art.”

Gournay founded artist-run gallery ContemporArti two years ago because “the best way for artists to be seen and promoted was to get together and make things happen”.

“Galleries and agents used to be a catalyst and work hard at helping artists develop, but nowadays most galleries are reduced to being art merchants. As an artist, you can’t always rely on galleries to “discover” you and give your work attention.”

French-born Gournay used her experience in marketing to organise exhibitions develop projects, and promote artists.

“We’ve achieved quite a lot in two years, we have organised various pop-up shows – group and solo shows- with our partner gallery in Highgate and we are finalising a unique collaboration between one of our artists, David Studwell, Elton John and legendary photographer Terry O’Neill. The print will be released at the Affordable Art fair.”

Gournay attended art classes three times a week while working in marketing before studying full time in Paris. Living in South End Green she loves the “sense of community”. “Even though I’m a foreigner I feel I belong here - you don’t feel you’re in a big metropolis.”

She takes inspiration from her walks in the area: “I walk around with a camera and take photos all the time. For my latest works of large flowers, I took photos of daisies in my neighbour’s front garden and a poppy during one of my walks around Hampstead. I’m constantly on the look out.”

At the fair, Gournay shows her enlarged close-ups of flowers in full bloom as well as chine-colles of butterflies.

“It’s based on patterns found in nature, I specially focus on the heart of the flower and its intricate pattern, “ she says.

“It evokes spring and summer, and is inspired by the ephemeral quality of life, but its beauty too.”

Her earlier work; views of Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill has focused on living in a large metropolis

“In London you are surrounded by people and somehow, you can feel extremely lonely, because people have ceased to communicate. Modernity and urban life have disconnected us from our roots and broken our feeling of belonging to a cosmological entity. My focus on nature is because when you’re surrounded by it, you feel connected to the world and to your inner self again… you feel at peace.” The Affordable Art Fair runs May 10-13