Article by Sean Worrall for The Organ
And so the 2023 Art Car Boot Fair happened, drag queens strutted, art popped performers danced, there was posing, pop music, a piss artist and of course car boots full of art…
And so the 2023 Art Car Boot Fair happened, there were drag queens, there was pop art, pop flavours, performers, dancing, posing, popping, pop music, a piss artist and of course car boots full of all kinds of art. After a slightly hesitant post-pandemic return as a live event last year – well we were all a bit cautious weren’t we – the Art Car Boot Fair felt well and truly properly back and buzzing again (popping) last Saturday.
Upfront disclosure, of course, those of you who know me, know I was once again one of artists invited to participate (being invited is something never to be taken for granted as an artist) so it is impossible to write an objective review, I was standing in my “car boot” from midday until the wind blew us all over just short of closing time at around 6pm and while I could see the work of the artists nearest to me and I could see those passing by and what they had in their hands (and thankfully I wasn’t too far from the bar), I have no idea what was going on over there or what the big cheer that suddenly erupted to my left was about, I have no idea about the art on the other side of the square or who was doing what out of earshot, I hardly ever get to explore the fair, there were artists on the bill who’s work I just didn’t get to see all day!
The Art Car Boot Fair has grown in many ways since the start of the century down East London’s Brick Lane, If we’ve done the maths properly then next year will be twenty years? It really is an ever evolving thing with lots of fresh buds and side-shoots, the big annual London Summer (late Summer this year) live show is always the main event in amongst all the small events that now happen though, this one is the big deal. There are the on-line pop ups, the trips to the seaside, that time we all went to Liverpool or in that weekend in the forest is Sussex a few years ago. These days there are the big online versions of the Art Car Boot Fair that happen a couple of times a year and connect with people all over the globe, indeed the follow up to last Saturday’s live Art Car Boot Fair Goes Pop opens on line next Friday for a week.
The London live event is still the main thing and it is still as much about the party and the people watching, the performance of it all, the dressing up, the parading, the smiles, the people you haven’t seen sin the last one as it is about the buying and selling of art. Here we are on the morning after the weekend before trying to commit a word or two to paper and until the late afternoon high winds prematurely put pay to things at the end the 2023 London Art Car Boot Fair in the still slightly strange Kings Cross surroundings was well and truly back on form and in full swing. There was a massive cheer as the first of the big queue was let in, a ribbon cut or so I’m told, there was the stampede but not as mad as recent years, not that rush to one particular artist, and that mad first half hour before things settle down and everyone gets into the flow of it all…
It seemed to be less about the print collectors or the bores with their tubes under their arms this year, it seemed more relaxed, back to earlier times in those terms, more of the party it once was – oh how I detest those tube hogs, they rush in at the start, fight for the limited edition print that they already know about, the big name they’ve been told to like, buy an extra one to flip on ebay and then walk around with their noses in the air and trophies under arm before smugly leaving without look at anything else – a couple of fairs ago one of them told me he never opens the tubes, the art is all stored, he was just happy to know he had a copy of the print – there wasn’t so much oft that this year, that was refreshing. Truth be told, there probably wasn’t the volume of selling this time, times are tough, the Tories don’t want you enjoying yourselves, work, work, tax, rent, sleep – most of us did well enough from what I could gather, more importantly a good time was had and some brilliant conversations. yes, if you really want to know, it was healthy enough in terms of sales and I do like that you do get to talk to people rather than just politely sell in a gallery or via an online transaction, I do like all the interaction and the faces put to names as well as the new people encountered for a first time, someone said she wasn’t sure if she could talk to me! Of course you can, please do! We artists love to talk, I never know if you want me bothering you! I liked this year’s fair, some of the old magic returned this year, I must admit I kind of politely didn’t write anything about last year’s fair and yes, of course the thing is different now but the magic was back this year, it did indeed pop in the right ways.
Of course things are different now, it isn’t 2008 down Brick Lane and most of the participating artists have been pushed out of London now, there’s new-builds everywhere, we’re surrounded by new towers and as artists most of us, it we were around back then, are a million miles away from the Art Car Boot Fairs back at the start of the century. Of course it isn’t the same, of course it has evolved, it has to evolve, we’re in some kind of futurist square that was pretty much a wasteland playground when the Art Car Boot Fair first came into being, it is hard to find a soul here in Kings Cross where once railway engines took on coal and later we danced in shells of warehouses until the sun came up, but this is London now and plush squares with gallons of coffee surrounded by shiny towers that house heaven knows who or what? Of course the Art Car Boot Fair is different now, how could it not be? Those who moan about it not being the same are chasing something we just can’t have in 2023, but what we do have is, in a different way, almost nearly as good, is kind almost as valid and more importantly, right here and happening right now rather than just being a thing of history.
Some of the artists are the same ones who were there at the start, some have been picked up along the way and stuck around for the ride, some are doing it for the very first time. Gavin Turk is the aforementioned piss artist – he has a market stall selling his cans of piss – Pure Evil is over in that corner with his big grin and his cowboy hat, there’s Susie Hamilton and her rather special painterly observations, the beautiful work of Geraldine Swayne is just there and there goes Paul Sakoilsky (or was it Kunst the Clown?) with something about agnostic voodoo written on a big sign. Julia Maddison’s tea towels are on a clothes line over there, I can see Marty and his pop art, he had to be here this year! C.A Halpin’s invisible artist is there for all to see, there’s Kate knight’s delicate work and actually there’s colour everywhere, there’s sound, shrieks of laughter, friends greeting each other, a good few thousand people in by the looks of things, still those vital hints of chaos and the DIY spirit the artist-led fair has always had and there goes Pandemonia, not the Art Car Boot Fair without Pandemonia walking around!
There’s some great mid afternoon experimental live music, wonder who it was? They were good, we’ll go chase them up, there was lots going on performance wise before it all gave way to the high energy Karaoke and just the right vibe from the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club (what stars!). There’s art everywhere of course, hard to know where to look, something like 120 participating artists, always carefully curated, always new artists next to the regulars, the familiar names – Juno Reactor bags are everywhere, Jeremy Deller is in deep conversation about Stonehenge, Atom Gallery are doing their thing, there goes a Haus of Lucy t-shirt well no, it can’t be about picking out names or highlights, there’s always something for everyone. People are showing each other what they’ve bought, “where did you get that?” Really wanted a Rosemary Jane Cronin piece but never had time to get back to her good looking stall. There’s art everywhere and most of it at car boot fair prices rather than gallery prices of course.
Hey, look, I can’t review the fair, I was part of it, but from where I was standing for most of the day, it felt like a good one, it felt like a return to form, it felt good to be there, it was a serious thing, it always is, it was hard work if the truth be told (and a big thanks to Fair founder Karen Ashton and her team), the fair was fun we had an excellent time, it was brilliant fun, and as we keep saying, one of the highlights of the London art year, big thanks everyone, the fair indeed did pop!
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