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The Manchester Contemporary and Buy Art Fair takes place every year and is the only UK invitational art fair for critically engaged contemporary art outside London, and has sold millions of pounds of contemporary art including works by Damian Hirst, Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry. This year is its tenth edition and marks an exciting change of locations from Granada studios to Manchester Central. In addition to the fair, there was an extended programme of talks, events, demonstrations, and for the first time the Buy Art Fair Fringe had affiliated events and initiatives spilling out across the whole city widening the fairs reach.

This year the Buy Art Fair and the Manchester Contemporary were together within the vast space of Manchester Central, and the separation that the old space at Granada Studios created is removed, as the Buy Art Fair stands merge together with the Manchester Contemporary stands, allowing visitors to seamlessly flow between the two without realising there is a divide. The divide is due to the different aims of the two sections, the main reason behind the Buy Art Fair is to get people to invest in art, whilst the Contemporary is to promote artists. The Buy Art Fair’s focus is to make it easy for everyone to buy original and affordable art by creating a space that offers visitors a wide range of art from traditional to the contemporary, and the opportunity to compare the artworks within one space. The Manchester Contemporary sits alongside the fair to provide a platform for critically engaged art, in which galleries select emerging and early career artists that showcase more experimental or challenging work, with the chance for collectors to invest in artists hailed to be the next big thing. Throughout the weekend within the Contemporary there were various talks that discussed the artists and ideas and allowed experts to share their knowledge giving visitors a greater insight into the galleries and artworks.

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Abode’s booth at Buy Art Fair 2017

Whilst situated in the Buy Art Fair section Abode Contemporary stood out for its exceptionally original and artistically outstanding artworks that promote early career artists from North West UK and Russia. Like galleries associated with the Contemporary such as International 3 and the Castlefield Gallery, Abode Contemporary promotes the artist, offering a platform to showcase their creativity and development, investing in artists that could go on to bigger things. This more artistic focus also translated to the Abode Contemporary stands display of artwork, creating a kind of mini exhibition space in which work was curated so different artists work hung alongside each other and communicated to each other like you would see within a contemporary gallery. This approach was different to the majority of other Buy Art Fair spaces as most functioned as a space to display the artwork as a means to sell, however a few Buy Art Fair stands had also moved away from this approach, promoting the artists or the gallery themselves, akin to the Contemporary stands. This could be seen in Hot Bed Press’ stand, in which print demonstrations took place throughout the weekend channelling peoples interest into print and what the studios did as a whole. Mancunian Books also was less about the sales aspect and more about its project Manchester Sketchbook that has views of Manchester by six different and distinctive artists. There were also notable artists stands who where representing their own work, such as Sydney Clare Checkland and her innovative photographs that are completely abstract so the subject remains ambiguous. Chris Rivers paintings whilst more mainstream had a illustrative and surrealist quality to them and his ‘Distorted lands’ series touches on the industrial past of the North making a nice link to the location of the Buy Art Fair at Manchester Central.

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Sydney Clare Checkland

Meanwhile in the Contemporary, alongside the regular established galleries such as PAPER and Islington Mill, newer artists lead spaces had stands such as Paradise Works who like Abode Contemporary was exhibiting for the first time. Established in April 2017 the space provides studios as well as an exhibition space and the stand featured work from up and coming artists James Ackerley, Kieran Leach and Precious Innes alongside more established artists such as Hilary Jack. From the Contemporary two artists William Mackrell, represented by The RYDER, and Emma Price, represented by Two Queens, where selected by a new art fund to have their work purchased for Manchester Art Gallery. It is this support and promotion of new and emerging artists that is a strong focal point of the Fair and this is what makes the fair so unique and vital to the north art scene. This year the Buy Art Fair and Manchester Contemporary was hugely successful and also a great boost in showcasing the different projects and galleries from the UK. Bringing Abode Contemporary there allowed us to not only to show the artists work physically but provide a great opportunity to talk with visitors at this event.

by Claire Walker, writer, art critic

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