Sluice 2013 Art Fair Review

Sluice 2013 Art Fair (Image Credit: Laura Mott)
Sluice 2013 Art Fair (Image Credit: Laura Mott)

A friend of mine who pursued higher education in Art described how professors would say something was “fresh”, instead of calling it “good”.   As in, “I’m really liking that piece. It’s fresh.” It’s an interesting way to describe something. Very binary, yet unconventional and direct.  To the point.

This last week is known in the art industry as Frieze Week. Collector’s crawl out of galleries from all over and descend on London for one of the world’s largest art fairs. But Frieze isn’t the only art fair around that week; one that is equally fresh is another called Sluice.

Art fairs create a definition on what is cool. They showcase artists and, through the law of supply and demand, determine what is popular. And in a way that’s good. Ben Street and Karl England, the directors of Sluice, created a fair that helps determine which art is fresh. But even better, was how the entire atmosphere in Sluice re-defined what an art fair can be.

And it was a spectacle of a sight. I’ll tell you that much.

Men with beards, curled mustached tips, horn rimmed specks, striped socks, bangs, ascots draping, blazer wearing, all while talking about the meaning of their latest piece. And it was all very cool.  Sometimes you even have to work on averting your own gaze towards the art and not the art-crowd.

There are three floors at the creative space at 47 49 Tanner Street with no booths or barriers between galleries’ displays. Enrico Gomez, a curator working with Theodore: Art said, “Sluice subverted the traditional ‘car show’ model of Art Fair & offered an Art Fair experience that was […] an experiential aesthetic to be considered both in addition to & in concert with, the artworks on display.”

“Sluice felt very close to what I might imagine the interior of many of the participating artists studios might feel like: very laboratory, very experimental…”

Everything had seemed to be happening all at once. Sylva Dean’s performance pieces engaged you, whether or not you wanted to. Snaking up to you in recycled wearable sculptures is something I’d call fresh.

There was also an Ian Andrews, Paul Newman and David Miller collaboration: An instillation that towered overhead, with see-through terrariums spilling out baby-shaped Mood Sand. (Remember, that vibrant colored sand you made in science class?) It was not fresh, for me.

Close by, performance artist Rosie B, distributed free red balloons atop a pedestal. I turned around and was promised Wu-Tang Clan tattoos would be given free, if I went back the next day. That is some serious commitment. But to what, I honestly have no idea. And downstairs, Division of Labour, set up a performance piece that resembled a fish market, including dead fish. It didn’t really smell but I wouldn’t call it fresh.

It is all pretty cool in a way. That so many different things can be conceived and then made or be done. I guess it reflects the flexibility in defining what art is, or what art can be.  Much like the definition of an Art Fair. It changes with any collected body of showcased art or artwork.

Work that is defined as good doesn’t always need other words to describe it. We just know sometimes if something is fresh or not. Fresh. Or not.

But the words I would use to describe Sluice are: that it’s a pretty fresh fair.

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Austin is a student at the University of Brighton and an aspiring writer.

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