4 September 2011
Scotland on Sunday (Review p.4)

There are a number of truisms about art fairs: they take place in vast tents or anonymous conference centres, they consist of row upon row of identical square booths and they are patrolled by terrifying Prada-clad gallerists who can smell money (or the lack of it) at 40 paces.

Glasgow’s newest art event, Vault, featuring work by Glasgow artists as prominent as Alasdair Gray and Turner Prize nominee Martin Boyce, as well as a clutch of promising young unknowns, will buck the trend on all these counts.

Running from Friday to Sunday next weekend, Vault is set in the stunning Victorian architecture of the city’s Briggait in an installation that is itself a giant sculpture by Glasgow artist lain Kettles. It will be staffed by friendly teams from the city’s public and artist-led organisations, and many of the artists will be available in person.

The former city fishmarket is now a studio complex as well as a beautiful reminder of the city’s mercantile heritage. “The setting is so inspiring,” says Patricia Fleming, the curator who has been responsible for crafting the event. “The Briggait is a work space and all of us, whatever our jobs, have a work space. I think that way the barriers between artists and the public are removed.”

And the money side of things? You don’t need to spend a cent, but if you do, the prices will range between a tenner and two grand and you can pay in interest-free instalments thanks to a unique extension of Creative Scotland’s Own Art Scheme.

Vault’s founders – Fleming was brought in by UZ, the company that used to run the Glasgow Art Fair – like to emphasise that it is not a replacement for the old fair but a new kind of event. “If it is an art fair then it’s a new type of an art fair in an oversaturated art fair market,” says Fleming. “It’s more in tune with the way Glasgow does things, never following a trend but creating something new.”

The aim is to re-establish the connection between the making and selling of art, and to emphasise Glasgow’s position as an artists’ community. Set in a place where artists actually make the work, Vault reminds visitors of the origins of the work they might be taking home with them from a city that has become internationally synonymous with artistic invention.

But instead of needing to trawl studios or traipse through degree shows, visitors to Vault will have a chance to see work by more than 70 artists chosen by galleries such as Street Level or Glasgow Print Studio and artist collectives like Lapland or The Mutual.

Jenny Brownrigg, from Glasgow School of Art, has selected five new graduates for a special section called New Views. “Many people find the degree shows too busy,” explains Fleming. “This is an opportunity to see what’s happening, filtered down by an expert.”

And with Vault’s artist-eye perspective you can also expect some irreverent attitudes to the art fair context. Much of the art on show comes with a knowing nod to the complexities of being on show or for sale. David Sherry, known for his performances and drawings, will be conducting a live auction… of his own fingers – although you will need to buy them in situ rather than detached to take home.

Market Gallery is showing Ellie Harrison, the artist whose sly MFA degree show last year consisted of soliciting a profile in this very newspaper. Currently wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Art Festival, she has decided to share her good fortune with her audience. Instead of using her artist’s production fee to build a new piece of work she has divided it into a number of £10 notes. Turn up at the fair and you can play hoopla with Ellie. Win and the tenner is yours to take home or spend on artists’ work.

Artists, of course, are not immune to the fact that the public might be feeling a little economically anxious at the moment. Kate V Robertson has built a giant boulder which she will hang from the Briggait’s impressive ceiling. “It’s an ominous presence,” says Fleming. “It suggests that threat of crashing that we are all aware of at the moment.”

Indeed, if you are skint this month but see something you might want to buy later, unsold works will be available to buy online for three months. “I’d love the public to have the same level of enjoyment I get from the amazing contemporary artists who work in the city,” Fleming concludes. “I’d really like to see the artists making some money!”

Vault Art Glasgow is at the Briggait, Glasgow, from Friday until 11 September.

Moira Jeffrey