Interview: Anthony and Ellie Wardle, founders of Fresh: Art Fair

PUBLISHED: 12:20 29 January 2019

Ellie and Anthony Wardle with Sir Peter Blake's FRESH

Ellie and Anthony Wardle with Sir Peter Blake's FRESH

Archant

Now in their third year, we ask Fresh: Art Fair's daughter and father team how the Cotswold's leading art fair is faring

Firstly, can you remind us what Fresh: is?

In a nutshell, it’s a huge exhibition of mainly contemporary art, hosting 51 leading UK galleries, showing 5,000 works by 500 artists. There are original prints and paintings, sculpture, glass and ceramics from emerging artists to Royal Academicians. Prices range from £100 to £30,000 with lots of choice for everyone. There is local, national and international work of a standard you would expect in London and other global capitals.

And it all takes place over three days in late April in the Centaur building at Cheltenham Racecourse...strictly no racing, just art...and coffee, champagne, lunch, talks and artist demonstrations.

How’s it all going?

Incredibly well. We had an excellent first fair in 2017...visitors told us that they didn’t expect the fair to be so big or the art so good. The April 2018 fair attracted 5,000 visitors over three days and art sales grew by 41%. There were over a thousand guests at the Private View...not very private but an enormous buzz.

People seem to come from miles around, from Cornwall, Yorkshire, Essex and lots from London, but it’s the Cotswolds and surrounding towns and cities that produce the majority. We still don’t quite know how many will come this year but 6,000 or more would be no surprise.

Once again we have some outstanding exhibitors...we were fully booked six months ahead. Returning Cotswold galleries include John Davies of Moreton-in-Marsh; Art Salon Bath; Hadfield Fine Art; Little Buckland Gallery and Cheltenham’s Paragon Gallery. Also returning are Bristol’s Lime Tree Gallery; Panter & Hall of Pall Mall; Quantum Contemporary Art from Chelsea and Dublin’s Doorway Gallery.

Fresh Art Fair 2018 at The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse (c) Antony Thompson/TWMFresh Art Fair 2018 at The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

What’s the secret?

We’d love to know, although the quality of the work is vital and free parking helps a lot. One factor is that art lovers no longer have the time to shop around the high streets. Now they can come to Fresh: and see 50 galleries in a couple of hours with a glass of wine in their hands.

And where there are five or six thousand art lovers gathered together galleries will follow. Retail is changing, shifting relentlessly online. Traditional retail footfall has fallen substantially so galleries need art fairs even more. Buying art online is not so easy.

It helps that the Cotswolds is also a fantastic place for art. The whole region and the ten surrounding county towns and cities are home to hordes of creative people and art lovers. There are few better places for an art fair.

So, how do you keep it Fresh?

At its core, Fresh: is about ensuring our visitors always see a broad range of new work. So each time we ask exhibitors to bring some different artists and we try to include some galleries that are not often seen on the art fair circuit.

Apart from fresh art, it’s about ideas. We were the first art fair in the world to partner with a fine art auctioneer, Bonhams, to provide visitors with advice on selling their old art. We were the first art fair to include an outdoor Sculpture Park which we will do every other year. This year we’ll have a demonstration of print-making by international artist Jim Starr and a display and talks about framing from leading London frame-makers Darbyshire (they have workshops in the Cotswolds).

And the future?

More fresh art, more ideas and more fairs as well. We recently signed contracts with Ascot Racecourse to hold a Fresh: Art Fair in September 2019. It will be a little bigger than Cheltenham and at an equally spectacular venue. Again, this is nothing to do with horse racing...we choose racecourses because they have space and loads of free parking, and are really easy to get to.

Fresh: Art Fair is another great example of a young, creative, family business that was born in the Cotswolds and is growing into a national brand. We’re delighted to have been awarded membership of Rock the Cotswolds, a website dedicated to Cotswolds creative people and enterprises.

Fresh: Art Fair will be in the Centaur building at Cheltenham Racecourse from April 26 to 28 with a Private View on the evening of Thursday, April 25. For more information, visit Freshartfair.net.

Fresh: is in partnership with The Royal Academy in the West, Oxford’s Ashmolean Gallery and Cheltenham’s Wilson Gallery, and sponsored by St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

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