Interview | Karen Ashton on Viral Art Car Boot Fair

Susie Hamilton, 'Mask Series', 2020

Eric Block

Karen Ashton on Viral Art Car Boot Fair

The first ever digital Viral Art Car Boot Fair on Sunday 20 September will see over 100 artists selling original work created especially for the event at bargain prices through the new Art Car Boot Fair (ACBF) website. The dazzling line-up of artists brings together familiar names such as Gavin Turk, Polly Morgan, Marcus Harvey, Mat Collishaw and Pam Hogg, with new artists such as Rankin, Noel Fielding, Helen Beard and Charlotte MacMillan.

Just as with the ACBF physical manifestation — cancelled this year due to the ongoing pandemic — fair-goers will have direct access to these artists, provided through links direct to their studios via Zoom and Instagram Live. There will also be a full Programme of the Day, offering visitors a myriad of ways to get involved, from live life drawing classes to radio broadcasts, interviews and performance art installations.

We spoke to Art Car Boot Fair founder Karen Ashton ahead of the exciting event.

Could you tell us more what to expect from the site. How will the interaction with the artists’ work?

The new website has been designed around our central desire to give the artist as much control over their ‘virtual pitch’ as possible. Each artist has control over how their page looks within certain parameters and importantly has control over their artworks during the event – so that they can do sudden offers, price drops, additions and so on to keep things lively. They can also have a film and a live zoom link so that their buyers and followers can interact directly and vice versa. Visitors will get very privileged access straight into the artist’s studio!

How are you going to transfer some of the anarchic spirit of the fair online?

By putting the artist at the centre of what we do and allowing them as much freedom of expression as we can. As with our live events, we try to provide the stage upon which they can perform. There will be countdowns, virtual queues, art drops and lots of communication so to get the best out of the day people will have to engage and have their wits about them!

How has the current climate affected what the artists are selling?

Yes. The artwork that gets presented at Art Car Boot Fairs often reflects the times we are living in, artists like Jeremy Deller, Jamie Reid and Carrie Reichardt are acutely politically aware and express that in their work. And then we have artists like Jessica Voorsanger, Susie Hamilton and Pam Hogg who have been making work that reflects their experiences and observations of the collective lockdown.

Any new artists this year that you’re particularly excited about?

Yes! We’re delighted to welcome Claire Partington, Helen Beard, Robert Cooper, Noel Fielding, Haus of Lucy, Charlotte Macmillan, Yushi Li, Adam Dant (who has created an amazing map for us – the Art Carbootopia), Nj Grindrod, Ruthie Hudson and Joanna Ham – and it’s great that coincidentally so many of these new artists are female!

Any tips for first time buyers coming to the fair?

It’s always a good idea to check out all the work we post on Instagram and across social media and if you like a piece then google the artist and find out a bit more about them. Also have a good look around the site, if you always buy limited edition prints then have a look at the original paintings, sculptures and objects on sale – it’s always a good idea to have an open mind. For some professional tips, Louisa Bucks and Nancy Dewe Mathews will be making their critic’s choice before the buying starts so join us for that.

Any bargains we should look out for? What sort of price range should we expect?

The whole day is about serious bargains, and these range from a few quid up to a couple of thousand though the vast majority of works are between around £50 and £400.

Tell us more about the Programme of the Day. What are your highlights?

I’m very excited about this Programme and hard to say which are the highlights as every event will be special – I’m hoping to do Susie Hamilton’s dog portrait class with my whippet Lottie, have already signed up for the life drawing class with Trixie Divine and I am really looking forward to the Hi-Noon conversation between Anouchka Grose and Yushi Li.

How does the new Membership scheme work?

We have such a fantastically loyal following and every live event that we run is like a huge reunion so we thought it was a good time to start the Art Car Boot Fair Club, so we can keep in touch with people on a more regular basis, especially at this time, and develop some more ideas that we have. The overall aim is to provide added value! Basically, it’s your ticket in plus so much more! We are already planning a pre-Christmas event and we will also use the new platform we have created to make special offers to our members in between our events, both online and live.

What are your future plans/hopes? 

We are planning more online events, special artist presentations, supper clubs when we can hold things like that again and lots of great access to art and artists. We are also looking at producing our own line of Art Car Boot Fair artwares!

Interview by Eric Block.


Entry times on Sunday 20 September:

12.00 – 2.30 pm — Members Only Premium Access (£12, includes further benefits)

2.30 pm – 5.30 pm — General Entry for £5

5.30 pm – 6.30 pm — Free Entry for All

Programme of the Day – Free except for Life Drawing Class with London Drawing and Trixie Devine (£10)

For more details and to join in go to: