Since launching the DIY Art Market in 2014, founder Mark Farhall has been supporting the work of emerging artists, designers and makers in the form of bi-monthly events. Held across venues in London and Brighton, not only does each market bring together the creative community but each also provides a platform for the exhibitors to showcase new work, as well as a place where visitors can discover and take home a medley of unique and enthralling pieces.
After studying illustration at Central St. Martins, Farhall began a 10-year stint at a gallery, and during which he pursued an interest in abstract drawing by moonlight – some drawings were nominated for the Jerwood drawing prize, and others were published by Café Royal Books and Picturebox Inc. This vast artistic, curatorial and creative background is what stirred Farhall to take the lead of a market that not only celebrated emerging talent but also fully aligned with his interests and drive to promote the new generation of creatives.
The next edition of the D.I.Y Art Market returns to Evolutionary Arts Hackney, East London, on 30 September, and over a third of the exhibitors – including recent graduates – will be making their debut at the event. Ceramics, zines, independent publications, patches, custom t-shirts, tote bags, art prints, risograph, screen prints, jewellery and artist books make up the roster, with exhibitors including Joke van Denhof, Babak Ganjei, Fredde Lanka, Jumbo Press, Ollie Silvester and Laura Bird.
We caught up with Farhall to find out more about how the market began, how he curates each event and what he has in store for the near future.
How did the DIY Art Market begin – was there a particular reason or influence that served as a catalyst?
DIY Art Market was set up initially with a few of the artists and independent publishers that had participated in Hackney Flea Market – which is an event I also organise. I then started to invite artists and independent publishers that I’d met at various zine, comic and illustration fairs and exhibitions, or connected with on social media to take part. I was, and still am, inspired by the zine, comic, and outsider art festivals, as well as independent music promoters, like Upset the Rhythm.
Run us through your curatorial approach – what do you look for and how do you piece together such a vast and varied amount of work?
My choice of exhibitors is based upon my background in the art world plus an interest in zines, counter culture, ephemera, abstract art and all things outsider. I exhibit artists and publishers who I just generally find inspiring, and who demonstrate an innovative approach to their practice. My interest is in the less commercial end of commercial art world, and the more commercial end of fine art. One of the many pleasures of organising these art events is receiving so many submissions, and having those “wow” moments when you open the link to someone’s website and just love their work.
I exhibit artists and publishers who I just generally find inspiring, and who demonstrate an innovative approach to their practice
What are your thoughts on social media – how does it impact the DIY Art Market?
Social media is great for connecting like-minded people, finding out opportunities, seeing how your peers have progressed and for inspiration. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without social media.
What do you think is the purpose of art: what’s its role and why create something?
I suspect the majority of the exhibitors would still be producing artwork even if they didn’t benefit financially from their endeavours. It’s more about fulfilling a need to communicate a personal expression through a medium. It’s great if that object connects with someone who then wants to own it, especially when that wasn’t the initial reason for it being produced.
Who are your favourite artists or creative that inspire you?
I’m inspired by many artists, such as Francisco Mendes Moreira, David von Bahr, Paul Simmons, Frederic Fleury and Les Rogers. I have empathy with what they’ve produced – in terms of their process, visual language and patterns of thought. I find their artwork inspiring, motivating and a relief.
Since the launch, how has the market evolved and what have you learnt along the way?
The first D.I.Y. Art Market was a small pop up in Stoke Newington with about 28 local exhibitors. Since then the events have grown is size, with about six events a year in south London and Brighton, plus a separate event for ceramics (Independent Ceramics Market). And now, with the opening of our DIY Art Shop, we host artists from all over the world.
What were the reasons for branching into a physical shop in East London, and what’s the reception been like so far?
DIY Art Shop was a happy random opportunity. I’d always had a real shop in the back of my mind, but figured it would happen a few years down the line. The logistics of opening a real shop has been a lot more work than I’d expected, and not at all like promoting the events. However a static permanent location has meant that I can exhibit works from artists located much further afield, such as Jon Vaughn (Canadian), Come Clarion (France), Oscar Anha (Spanish) Tom Tyve (Swedish) and many others. Like the DIY Art Markets, visitors to the shop are very enthusiastic to visit a space where you can physically see all the works together.
Where do you see the market heading in the future – will you venture into other mediums or platforms? Do you perhaps see it heading oversees?
Today I’m busy organising Giftland, which is a month-long festive pop-up at the DIY Art Shop running from 5th Dec. I’m also commissioning exclusives and originals, so potential art gifts will fill our shop walls and shelves this festive season. And I’m really excited about the window installation Holly St. Claire has created for this event – it’s going to look awesome. DIY Art Shop might be popping up overseas in 2019 – DIY Art Shop Japan.