Getting your head around the world of Contemporary Art


At our Fold Gallery party on 7th September we were lucky enough to have Art Critic and writer Nico Kos Earle talk to us about what it takes to get an artist into the Freize Art Fair and importantly how to choose art you wish to buy and for the right reasons.  Gallery owner Kim Savage talked about his current show and how he promotes his artists.  In a follow-up to those fascinating talks here is Nico again with a post script about understanding art collecting.  Barbara

Getting your head around the world of Contemporary Art

It was so good to meet you all at the FOLD on Wednesday night, and thank you for taking that first tentative step into what might seem like Lala-land. It occurred to me that a little postscript might be useful, by way of continuing along together on this bonkers but enticing merry-go-round of contemporary art.

In retrospect, I wonder whether I should have illustrated my idea of the art world’s six-point star by pulling a number of you out from the crowd and arranging you in formation. Not only would I have relished the opportunity to take the heat off myself, we could have all participated in a little performance art, and briefly embodied the role of critic, art historian or collector. Indeed, we might have located an artist amongst you, and manoeuvred you into its centre. There I would have asked you to imagine how you would remain true to yourself, with all these very important people around you that you needed to please.

On that evening we were surrounded by Kes Richardson’s “Lilliputian” canvases: large scale works that amplify every one of his favourite gestures in studio. This crucial insight into the work that Kim afforded us in his speech is the “why” the works seemed to work so well from a distance but defied logic from close up. He was expanding the unknown. Kim Savage’s exciting project gallery gives artists like Kes the chance to realise their vision, and as a consequence consistently wins the critic’s choice. All his artists benefit from the much needed critical appraisal along with this wonderful experimental space to explore and push their own boundaries.

What’s great about meeting emerging artists such as those the FOLD is committed to showcasing is that they are at the beginning of these encounters and tend to have a very clear, often idealistic vision untainted by commercial pressures. As Grayson Perry (Turner Prize winning cross-dresser) says, “All good art gives us an opportunity for a different relationship with time. It is usually about an individual’s radically idiosyncratic interpretation of the world.

If any of you manage to get a copy of Sarah Thornton’s book Seven Days in the Art World you might begin to find that in the course of her art appreciation “journey,” she had learned that art should not “just please the eye” but “rip open your mindset.” I think this is where we need to start if we want to get our heads around the world of contemporary art. Since the advent of the camera – which issued the era of Modern Art – contemporary art has often sought to penetrate beyond the veil, and can often seem anti-retinal.

What is especially exciting about this era now (which is post YBA stunts like Hirst’s shark and Emin’s unmade bed) is that we are beyond the shock of the new. Artists today have to be able to show they have skill combined with great concepts. The evidence has to be in the work, there for us to discover. This is also the era of networkism – where all of us are connected to something all of the time. Taking time out to look at and try to understand art is a fantastic way of detoxing from the constant stream of peripheral messaging.

If any of you would like a tour of Saatchi Start Art fair starting this Wednesday please do not hesitate to contact myself or Kim Savage.

Nico Kos Earle

Nico Kos Earle is an arts writer and creative director, and the co-founder of Van Kos Art, an art consultancy and content provider within the art world.  She met her business partner Sam Van Coillie, art historian and art dealer, in the middle of their respective stories and they decided to combine their narrative.

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