Home Magazine MeetMe#32 | In conversation with Will Ramsay

After what happened in some European cities, people have been quarantined in their homes also in the United States. Thus, all public events and spaces are now closed, as well as important shows and art fairs have promptly been postponed. On our side, Kooness is lucky enough to never stop due to the collaboration and hard work with our galleries and artists, as well as our magazine. For this reason, we will publish a conversation we had with Will Ramsay, the founder and CEO of Affordable Art Fair worldwide and a great passionate of the art system. 

After AAF in Milan, where we interviewed the director Manuela Porcu, the NY art fair was supposed to open during this last week of March, however, it’s been postponed to when COVID19 will be under control. The fair website claims: “After serious consideration, we have decided to postpone the Spring edition of the Affordable Art Fair here in New York City. Stay tuned, new dates will be announced in the coming days and your ticket(s) will be valid for these new dates. We are committed to bringing a spectacular fair to New York City later this year as art and culture bring people together especially in these uncertain times.”

A conversation with Will Ramsay, Founder and CEO of Affordable Art Fair.


Will Ramsay, Founder and CEO of Affordable Art Fair


Dear Will, you started working in the contemporary art field with your gallery – Will’s Art Warehouse – and then, in 1999, you founded the Affordable Art Fair to make contemporary art accessible to a larger audience. What motivated you to create the fair?

Yes, I started out with Will’s Art Warehouse and had three galleries at one point which was challenging. But I had a really positive response to the atmosphere being so friendly and informal, so I decided to do it on a bigger scale and launched the first Affordable Art Fair in London in 1999. My mission was to make art accessible and affordable to all. I wanted to break down the perceived barriers of the art world and give people the opportunity to enjoy and collect art in a fun and inviting atmosphere. I also wanted people to realise that you don’t have an expert or squillionaire to buy art. One of the reasons why I decided to call it the Affordable Art Fair was to make it really clear that this was a fair at which everyone can buy art and take it home on the very same day.

Did you think the art ecosystem needed more art fairs to represent artists and galleries?

At the time, way back in 1999, there were no fairs aimed at the affordable market – all the existing fairs were high-end and the art on display was way out of most people’s price bracket! This also meant there were no opportunities for the many small-medium sized galleries to exhibit at the fair, no matter the talent of their artists or the potential visitors interested in their work. So, I took inspiration from other previously stuffy markets, like Fine Wines, which was made accessible by companies like the UK-founded Majestic Wines. I thought – why not do the same thing for the art market? I’m delighted with the success of the Affordable Art Fair and the contribution it has made in democratising the art world. 

Affordable Art Fair is becoming more and more international with 13 fairs each year across 3 continents and in cities like London, New York, Milano and emerging art markets like Asia. Plus, each fair hosts many international galleries and their artists work. Do you think this is a good sign for the art market?

Yes definitely, the art world is certainly becoming more global. For buyers, the idea of art as an affordable luxury is becoming more commonplace with each Affordable Art Fair we hold! Some of the most well-known US and European galleries opening branches in Asia, both to showcase their Western artists to Asian collectors, and to tap into the growing Asian art scene. We’re also seeing an increase in the number of galleries willing to travel to Affordable Art Fair’s overseas, for instance at the Milano fair this year we will have 35 galleries based outside of Italy, which is almost half of all the galleries at the fair! When chatting to them, they comment that they love Milano because the art audience is very receptive to the latest trends and like seeing what is new on the global the art scene. Another way in which the art marketplace is growing, is through online art sales – a market which is now worth US$6 billion*! In 2016 we launched our online marketplace – which means our galleries can sell, and visitors can buy, thousands of affordable artworks online, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. *Source: Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2019.

What advice would you give to galleries who are considering exhibiting? Or to art lovers who are visiting a fair for the first time? 

If a gallery wants to expand their customer base, they should definitely consider exhibiting at an art fair. Each of our fairs attracts more visitors over a few days than the average gallery would see in a year! Our Fair Directors can also give gallerists all kinds of advice to make the fair a success – from which artists would work for their city, to tips on marketing and setting up their booths! For visitors, collecting art is a lot easier than you might think – you don’t need to be an expert –¬ everyone has individual taste so everyone can collect art. Many people have misconceptions about the price of art, it doesn’t have to break the bank. All the artworks at the Milano fair are priced between €100 – €7,500 and clearly labelled. An art fair is a great place to lose yourself among thousands of works and see what pieces you’re drawn to and connect with. Don’t try to buy art as a good investment; buy it because you love it and if you discover in 20 years that it has increased in value, then you can feel smug about your excellent taste! Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the gallerist questions about the artwork, artist, techniques, materials, style or inspiration. They are first and foremost art-lovers too, and the more you understand the more you will appreciate and enjoy the piece for years to come.

Cover image: Will Ramsay, Founder and CEO of Affordable Art Fair

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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