Buy Now

1) What is Parallax and how does it differ?

Artists get bombarded with emails all the time for events. We know because we are artists too.

There are similar events as PAF in London all of which started after PAF. Some have been directly

influenced by it, because the owners either exhibited or visited PAF in the early days. So, what makes PAF different from these events? There are two ways:

a) PAF stems from the philosophy of art history, particularly the meaning of the art object.

Why you make art or design and how you think viewers are to supposed to view and think about it

is extremely important. You may not have realised, but, no matter where you are in your career, you do think about these questions all the time. The fair, then, did not start as “good idea” that popped into someone’s head or the desire to build an international brand to sell on at a profit. It did not start for commercial purposes. It is not about using artists and designers for financial or reputational ends. The fair is anti-materialistic and anti-brand. We think the industry should be changed to benefit artists and designers, questions should be asked, challenges made to the present system. But this first began by thinking about current problems in the relationship between you, the objects that you make, the viewers, and the role that Art History plays in meaning. Actually, it began by thinking about our art too, as the owners are artists and designers like you. They are from the same background. This aspect of the fair is expressed mainly in lecture series, books, pamphlets, as well as some aspects of the fair like the layout. In the future, we hope this might be expressed in lobbying on behalf of artists and designers, as well as education. What makes the fair different is that it has a unique foundation and purpose from the other fairs when you search their details carefully. How and why they began can tell you a lot about what drives the event. But there is a second, and equally important, reason:

b) Stimulation of business skills and independence.

We know it is tough being an artist or designer for some. We understand the frustrations when you cannot support yourself from your work. We all hate secondary jobs, like flipping burgers or working in a gallery reception to make ends meet. We believe the present system is the problem because it keeps artists from learning about business and, importantly, doing it. We think it is bad when an artist is “represented” by a gallery or dealer or, worse, when they are “represented” by online galleries. It is also counter-productive if you become too dependent on art fairs, grants and residencies too. The latter may add to your CV, but your work suffers from being created in protection from the realities of daily living. All these often stop artists from developing important business and marketing skills, particularly face-to-face marketing skills selling their work as well as developing clients themselves. It takes away your creative independence. These are not separate skills that can be done away with or left to others. They are critical to the creative process itself. They also feed into the development of your work because you start to think more in terms of others in that process, as well as involving them in that process. Your creative process becomes social. But there is a problem – a vicious circle! Except for a small minority, most artists and designers are not very good at selling their work because they have never received any training in how to do it. On the one hand, they want opportunities to sell their work, but on the other hand, they lack the skills to sell. This makes them susceptible to all kinds of promises made by art fairs, artist agencies and pay-to-display galleries only to find that it costs them a fortune. We think it is wrong that some events take advantage and overcharge artists for exhibition space (no matter the promises) knowing that they will not do very well. It is even worse when they have a pretentious “selection process”, which is designed as much as a marketing tool to sell space to artists as it is to “select”. It is counterproductive and gives artists a false sense of security.

It is to counter these problems that our system at Parallax “Art” Fair is designed. We do not have a “selection procedure” in the traditional sense. Although getting “important” people in the art industry to “select” can appear to legitimise the art on show, it does not when you think through what is going on. There are philosophical and methodological problems over how it is possible to choose one art over another so the result is always naïve and contradictory in reasoning. Very often these events do not state their specific criteria that would at least help to legitimise “selecting”. They rarely do this because it would put off a lot of applicants. If you knew they were looking for specific things, there would be no point in you applying if you did not meet these requirements. But a “selection procedure”, as well as continuing an older way of thinking about art objects, also carries on the hierarchies amongst artists when they should be fellows. There is nothing worse than believing you are more important than another artist when that sense of importance is due to a very questionable and rather silly system. In contradistinction, we do not have a “selection procedure”. Firstly, because they are unjustifiable without specific criteria, which also makes them pointless in an art world that is incredibly diverse. Secondly, we are not running a school competition amongst artists, but a business-consumer event where we believe artists can learn from each other, improve and get better in the cut and thrust of exhibiting and selling. We prefer a horizontal method where the visitors decide which products they prefer, which stimulates their confidence, as well as stimulating artists’ flexibility to evolve. This creates dialogue – a foundational dialogue between “the people”, not dialogue set up for them by “experts” in a plastic manner.

Another way to stimulate business, is that we also break up the booths into smaller sections. This is not simply to be “affordable”, which is a passive way of thinking. We want you to be active so it we prefer to think of it as keeping your breakeven points down so that your risk is lower, especially if you are new to selling or not very good. You should never hire exhibition space on credit or through loans. You should also never be encouraged to do this by an event owner. You should always begin by working out how much you can afford to lose if you sold nothing at an event. This then becomes your budget and you should fit all exhibition costs into it. The idea is that if you are inexperienced you should start small and build up. At Parallax “Art” Fair, we also get you to design hanging plans (a new experience for most) as well as getting you to think about your work as products and in terms of marketing. All exhibitors are given literature on how to prepare for face-to-face selling. Our task then is not simply to “lock” you into our fair or brand, we do not want you to just come to an event, stick your work up and drink a bit of wine, we want you to gain new skills and start implementing them on your own, outside of the system, wherever you are based in the future. Exhibitors that have come to PAF bearing this in mind, do exceptionally well either in sales, improving in sales (often from zero), being challenged about their products and how they should change them, selling techniques, business planning, budgeting, shipping procedures, taxation, and some have brilliantly gone on to set up their own gallery spaces or art groups with other like-minded creative practitioners. We especially endorse and encourage the latter.