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Special report: Treat for lovers of art and key money-spinner for creators
More than £1 million is expected to change hands at this year’s Artists Open Houses event.
The festival, which sees 200 artists open up their homes and studios to the public, will start tomorrow and run until the end on the month.
Everything from sculpture and jewellery to watercolours and textiles will be on show in what is thought to be one of the largest events of its kind in the world.
Judy Stevens, Artist Open Houses (AOH) director, described it as a “celebration” of the area’s creativity.
She said: “We are really lucky in that Brighton is full of creative people and probably other artists and creative people are attracted here as a result. It’s a kind of momentum.
“The atmosphere is always fantastic and there is something for everyone.
“We shouldn’t take it for granted. We are very lucky.”
Talking about the financial opportunities for the artists, she added: “It’s always difficult to put a figure on it but it is usually around £1million.
“AOH is an important event for the artists. Not only can they make money from sales but it’s also great exposure and the event can lead to further interest from galleries.”
The homes are grouped into 14 separate trails – each said to have its own unique character and atmosphere.
Hanover, organisers say, provides a laid-back approach with its fisherman’s houses while the urban warehouse spaces of the North Laine and cottages of Ditchling provide something very different.
The event is a key date in the diary for many local artists. But such is its reputation, it also attracts people from all over the world.
In total about 1,000 artists exhibit in the 200 houses around the city and beyond.
Winner of the Best Open House award 2013, Kay Aplin, has this year invited a selection of renowned Danish artists to display work in her Stanmer Villas home.
Titled the Ceramic House, it will showcase the owner’s architectural ceramic and glass installations as well as sculpture, installation, performance and tableware from her Scandinavian guests.
Speaking before the launch, Kay described AOH as a “special” event.
She said: “I think it is a fantastic opportunity to find out what other people are doing in the context of their own homes.
“I also think it is nice to see work like this in a home rather than in a white cube on a plinth in a gallery.
“My house isn’t that big but I’ve got a few artists staying with me. It’s fantastic to have so many talented people over here.
“It’s a fantastic event. My house from the outside just looks like any other but inside it is like a fantasy wonderland.”
To her surprise her European guests knew all about Brighton before landing at Gatwick.
She said: “I think we perhaps don’t realise how strong our reputation is. They don’t have anything like this over there so I had to explain the concept to them.
I think we take it for granted.
“They have only just got here but I have already taken them to the Pavilion and they were amazed.”
Fellow artist Vicky House is opening the doors to her home in Lawrence Road, Hove, for the first time having previously exhibited at other people’s houses.
She said the joy for exhibitors came from taking the time to plan and think about themes and having a say in which artists to invite.
She said: “I’ve been planning it for a year. It’s been great fun.
“The reward for me as a host is if someone leaves my house feeling inspired. It’s nice to be able to create a space where people can come and have half an hour relaxing, surrounded by fantastic art.
“It’s also nice for me to have a home full of fantastic art.”
Ms House and her invited artists are also using the event to raise money for good causes.
They hope to raise cash for the Friends of Sussex Hospices through a silent auction during the May event.
She added: “Brighton is the perfect place for it. I struggle to think of too many other places with as much creativity.”
Such is the relaxed informal nature of the event many exhibitors spend lots of time and money not only on the art but also hosting.
One of those is Miladys Parejo, who is bringing in a top Mexican chef to take over her kitchen for the month.
The AOH host of five years said: “It’s a great event and a fantastic opportunity for us artists to reach the community.
“Visitors get to speak to the artist and take the time to find out more about the works. That’s great.
“It’s an opportunity to view great pieces of art in a comfortable environment.”
Ms Parejo, who is originally from Venezuela, moved to the city 20 years ago to study.
She is set to invite nine other artists to her home in Langdale Road Hove this month for the event.
Among them is Cristobel Ochoa, another Venezuelan artist who creates living sculptures such as this multi-coloured sea urchin.
For more details and the full brochure visit www.aoh.org.uk.
OPEN HOUSE HIGHLIGHTS
Along with the open houses we have featured in the main piece, here are our picks of the rest.
- GEORGE DOUGLAS HOUSE, 14 SILLWOOD ROAD, HOVE
Just a stone’s throw from busy Western Road is an exhibition of long-lost photographs of Hollywood stars from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
The photographs, many of which have never been seen before, include images of Gary Cooper, President Harry
Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Dirk Bogarde and Peter Sellers.
The archive belongs to Brighton-based photographer George Douglas, who worked for many years at Picture Post and Life magazine.
- TICHBORNE GALLERY, 18 TICHBORNE STREET, BRIGHTON
Jerwood contemporary prize winning Swedish artist Sally Kindberg will be exhibiting her oil paintings of cheese.
The exhibition, entitled Backfield, will be the third in a series that features artists associated with Goldsmiths Department of Art, University of London. It is joint curated by former Goldsmiths art lecturer Colin Day.
- BRIGHTON’S SMALLEST PUB, THE BLUE HOUSE, AGNES STREET, BRIGHTON
Competing for the title of Britain’s smallest pub, The Blue House off Elm Grove will be turning a front room into a boozer with works from 17 artists.
There will be watercolours, textiles and photography along with tasty treats, a garden to relax in and even live music.
- CHILDHOOD MEMORIES, 110 WESTBOURNE STREET, HOVE
Vietnamese artist Hong Dam will explore the childhood of her fellow country men and women in this exhibition which uses digital paintings, sculptures and poems.
She will also tell the story of how she left her home aged eight, arriving in England as a refugee.
As part of her research for the project she interviewed people who had dealings with the boat refugees, including a demolition diver who spotted and saved a boat of sinking refugees.
By telling her story, she hopes to uncover some of the gaps in her own memory.
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