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Artists cut out the middleman at the Accessible Art Fair

The 11th edition of the Brussels event is a part of a growing trend for fairs where artists exhibit their own work

Anna Brady

The Accessible Art Fair in 2016 Accessible Art Fair

It is a curious trait of art fairs that the artists themselves are often notably absent, shielded from commerce by their dealers. Artist-led fairs—where the creators take charge, selling direct to the public—are steadily growing in number. The photography-focused Unseen Amsterdam ran for the fifth edition in September, while The Other Art Fair has mushroomed since it started in London five years ago, notching up 21 editions and now with fairs in Bristol, Brooklyn, Sydney, Melbourne and London, where it coincides with Frieze from 5-8 October.

Also this week in Brussels is the Accessible Art Fair (ACAF) which runs for the 11th year from 5-8 October at the Bozar Center for Fine Arts with around 65 emerging and mid-career artists taking part (a New York edition ran in November 2016 but has not yet been repeated). ACAF was founded by Canadian curator Stephanie Manasseh, who describes the fair as a means of “removing the barriers between the buyer and the artist.”

A work by Antonella Cusimano Antonella Cusimano

Around 300 applications from artists without gallery representation are received each year and are whittled down by a selection panel that includes Leticia Hoffman of the Art Associate Fine Art Group, Sophie Clauwaert, managing director of ArtExpert, art and design dealer John Volleman, Kathryn Smith of art and design specialists Ampersand House, and the artist Rod McIntosh. The selected artists pay a fee to exhibit; at traditional and more expensive art fairs, the costs are borne by the gallery.

Manasseh picks out five exhibitors who stand out at this edition of ACAF: the young Colombian Alejandra Aristizabal, presenting mixed-media work; Antonella Cusimano, an Italian artist living in Brussels who makes densely layered drawings; German painter Frank Pietras; New York-based Katie Levinson, who produces minimal mixed-media abstract works on a miniature scale, and the politically engaged works of Syrian painter, performer and filmmaker Abdalla Al Omari.

  • The Accessible Art Fair (ACAF), Bozar, Brussels, 5-8 October
Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 294 October 2017