Are young and emerging artists able to break into the traditional art world?

Looking back on the important art fairs of the summer and autumn - Basel, Frieze, FIAC -  it is hard not to be struck by the upbeat noises coming from the dealers and organisers of record sales, many in the million pound range, and high levels of activity overall. Many of these sales are of established names to a wealthy client base, sales which can overshadow much other activity in the market.

If established names capture the headlines, where then does this leave the new artists, those looking to break through and be represented on the wider stage? In striving for originality and seeking to make a name, where and how do you pitch your work?

Undoubtedly there are sales of works by younger artists but they can be drowned out amongst the headlines. Yet, to be fair, Basel had a section called “Statements” which was aimed at shows by emerging artists, and all the major fairs have had areas devoted to newer galleries and themes where lesser known names can come into the spotlight.

While it is encouraging to see Basel opening up sections to younger galleries and emerging artists, the bridge between this level of exposure and the reality many face in the market can still be a difficult one to cross.

In July I was talking to a young artist called Maurice Force, a Barbadian whose works covered island scenes (aimed I suspect at tourists to the island) moving to larger pieces depicting the human figure and faces in juxtaposition. Using oils and moving into this work for the first time, he was open about appealing to the American market and building on the positive feedback from US visitors. This exemplifies knowing your market, developing your styles of work and hoping for the one break or buyer who will be an ambassador for your work.

I have the privilege of being a trustee of SPACE – an arts charity that looks to provide affordable studio accommodation to artists both in and outside of London. Established in 1968, SPACE  runs 19 artist studio buildings across seven London boroughs and Colchester aiming to provide affordable creative workspace plus support programmes, such as exhibitions, artists residencies, bursaries and training opportunities, to enable artists to be sustainable. With 750 tenants the market may have changed since the 1960s but the demand for working areas and the chance to showcase your work remains.

Here you see the effort, the creativity and the struggle. Few would aspire to showcase at Basel or Frieze and be represented by an international gallery, but without such people providing the lifeblood and impetus to the art world it would be a sterile and closed world indeed.

This week sees the opening of Miami Basel, a slightly different dynamic but with a substantial representation by European galleries and others from around the world. I will be ‘taking the temperature’ of the art market and the overall sales scene at the fair, looking at the exposure given to the less established end of the market, which may prove a better platform for up and coming artists.

For more information on how we support the burgeoning art world, get in touch with Philip Clark.

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