ART is a many-splendored thing. Not only do you not have to like it all, it has more layers than a politician's skin. The art world spins on lucre – some filthy, some not. The odd artwork, such as Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull, even has a laugh at the collector's expense.
Glasgow has always loved its art. In the early days of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Art (RGI), crowds flocked to its annual exhibition in the city's Corporation Galleries (now the McLellan Galleries). In its third year, 1863, more than 53,000 visitors poured through the doors, many on Working Men’s Tickets.
These are changed days and in the intervening 154 years, art fairs have come and gone. Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair (GCAF), which opens a week today at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow, is unlikely to attract the same volume of visitors, but it will surely provide a snapshot of the current contemporary art market. From technicolour heilan coos to beautifully-crafted furniture, it's all in the mix and it's all up for grabs, whether you have £50 or £50,000 to spend.
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This year GCAF even has its own brand new shiny app, which could extend its reach way beyond the confines of the Old Fruitmarket. I am easily tickled but it even has a colour-matching function which allows you to check on whether it will go with your curtains or wall-paint.
Pulp Fiction Bananas, a screen print on paper by graffiti superstar artist Banksy, for example, depicts the famous scene from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson point their pistols in the direction of hapless crooks. Banksy has reduced this scene to three colours. Black, white and yellow. The yellow belongs to two bananas, which have been placed where guns would have been in the hands of the two men.
In the App, which describes the limited edition work as Banksy by Banksy, the monochrome palette is devoid of yellow. That tickled me too. The price is available on application.
The man behind GCAF is Gerry Muldoon of GM Events. Muldoon has hosted the Aberdeen Art Fair for the last seven years. He is girding his loins for the arrival of some 5,500 visitors over the course of three days next weekend; kicking off with a champagne opening reception on Friday night.
When I speak to him, he has just visited an empty venue and he's brimming with excitement about filling it with art. "There's something about the Old Fruitmarket," he sighs. "It's so atmospheric. It's been a favourite venue of mine for many years so I'm delighted to have secured it for the third year in a row.
"This year, we have galleries present from all over the country, including Somerset, Bristol, London, the Central Belt, Banff and the Borders. Online has a place, but the thing about the art fair is that people can actually get close the works and speak to the gallery owners and artist.
"We are the first art fair in the UK to develop an App. Young professionals in particular are attached to devices, and the App fulfils the need they have to browse online. It means that the exhibitors can sell work in the run-up to the fair and after it too."
He laughs when I ask him about matching their curtains to potential purchases. "Well, some people like to match their art to their decor. It's a handy tool to have. That being said, my own collection of art doesn’t match anything in my house!"
What you will find at GCAF is a diverse range of work across many, many disciplines, he says. "There's still life, portraiture, landscape, original prints, photography, furniture and more. And the beauty is that everything is under one roof. There is every type of art and every type of artist."
You will find work by a broad cross-section of artists and makers, from young emerging artists to "names" such as Peter Howson, Sir Peter Black, Damien Hirst and Banksy.
Print studios such as Peacock Print Studio and Glasgow Print Studio (GPS) always put on a great show and I'd advise hot-footing it to their stands. On home turf – their HQ is just a short walk away from the Old Fruitmarket – GPS will be bringing a prime selection of limited edition fine art prints including work by Fiona Watson and Marion MacPhee as well as original prints which are featured in the current Frank Quitely show at Kelvingrove. There's also new work on show from Helen Fay, John Byrne, Barbara Rae, Elizabeth Blackadder and Ken Currie.
The Bridge of Allan-based Fotheringham Gallery is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and are regulars at various art fairs. The Fotheringham sisters will be showing new paintings by some of popular gallery artists, including Gordon Wilson, Deborah Phillips, Scott Naismith, Ian McWhinnie, Cherylene Dyer, Jennifer MacKenzie and Tim Cockburn. Leigh Fotheringham will also be exhibiting new jewellery designs.
Third Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, April 28 to April 30