Fresh: Art Fair - Cosmopolitans by P J Crook (detail)

Fresh Art Fair and the Visual Arts in Cheltenham

Fresh Art Fair is another boost for the visual arts in this old town.  After all, until fairly recently, the art-hungry local had to forage amongst the finds displayed in a traditional museum, a situation much improved by the arrival of The Wilson, with its new galleries.

In terms of buying art, things in Cheltenham weren’t much better, with options on the scale between some often rather stern Cotswold gallery owners or a trip to the art department of BHS. There’s a gallery that only seems to sell works by Ronnie Wood or Bob Dylan. There are the, let’s be elitist for a moment, to me, hilarious offerings in Cavendish House – the sub Vettriano 21st century equivalent of a female tennis player scratching her bum. And I suppose morale wasn’t helped when the Banksy that graced Fairview Road for a few minutes was defaced and then destroyed. That, Cheltenham, is why you can’t have nice things.

Anyway, cheer up. Spirits were lifted recently by the arrival of Chapel Arts, which, we thought, does a fine job of presenting some art that you might like to buy in a friendly, unfussy environment.  And an honourable mention for the Montpellier Gardens Gallery.

We’re here to talk about Fresh Art Fair: which is, we hope, another step in the right direction. Not to be confused with Fresh Air (the terrific biennial sculpture exhibition at Quenington), this Fresh Art Fair is a contemporary art event coming to Cheltenham for the first time in 2017.

Fresh Art Fair – The Basics

Event: FRESH: Art Fair
Venue: Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates: 12 – 14 May, 2017
What to see: Selling exhibition of 5,000 paintings, prints, ceramics, photography and sculptures by 400 artists, via 45 galleries.
Cost: Admission – Friday (free), Saturday & Sunday (£6). There’s a £10 private view on Thursday.
Art – ‘from a few hundred pounds to quite a few thousand’
Tip: 2 for 1 advance tickets online.

Fresh: Art Fair artists represented include the name-droppable Bridget Riley, Peter Blake, Sophie Ryder (she of the Cheltenham Hare and Minotaur) and Barbara Rae. And you’ll also have the opportunity to spot new, up and coming artists.

Fresh Art Fair - Protection factor 97 Steven Lindsay

Aside from all the viewing and buying, the event includes sessions where artists will paint live; artists and experts (we love the distinction made between the two) will talk and Bonhams will value.

The ambition is that Fresh Art Fair will attract 10,000 people and become annual. The organisers (Eleanor and Anthony Wardle) have plans to replicate the formula elsewhere. “Cheltenham will be the birthplace of a new national art fair brand” says Anthony Wardle.

The header image is a detail from Cosmopolitans by P J Crook MBE. Main body image Protection Factor 97 by Steven Lindsay