Moniker is a new contemporary art fair the aim of which is to elevate the status of street related art in an often insular UK art community by strategically positioning itself in the consciousnesses of some of the world’s most influential art buyers with a fair running parallel to Frieze. Taking its name from the original taggers, the hobos who travelled America’s railroads during the 1920s and 30s writing their names on the sides of the trains they travelled on, Moniker references the roots of street art whilst ringing in a new area which sees street art taken more seriously by UK art institutions as they catch up with the rest of the world. We speak to Moniker’s directors Kristophe Hofford and Frankie Shea ahead of the opening.
Dazed Digital: What is the role of Moniker?
Frankie Shea: We wanted to start an art fair that was very much removed from the traditional art fair format, something a little more lively and exciting. I find with the art fairs we see in the UK all year round that the art goer is almost dictated to what they are exposed to. It’s nice to have another option which we hope to provide. Kristophe Hofford – With Moniker we’re trying to elevate the status of these artists as so often they are tarnished with the brush of ‘street art’ but we are showing the finer side of the scene and want to present them to a larger and more serious audience.
DD: Is a street art fair something that is currently missing in the UK?
Frankie Shea: It’s tough to call it just a ‘street art’ fair but yes most of the artists have their roots within street art and their subcultures but what we are showing is contemporary art here, the new contemporary if you like. And in the UK there is little or no representation of this kind of work as the art fairs and their related committees do seem to be a difficult network to break into. Yet internationally it’s different, this form of contemporary art has been embraced and exhibited regularly in all major art fairs and satellite shows. The most you’ll see in the UK is a third hand print of a Blek Le Rat. And that’s nothing against Blek but we’re much more than a screen-print of a stencil. Many of the artists we will exhibit may or still do paint regularly on the street, like Steve Powers for example who paints under the name ESPO, but they would always be painting in a studio environment for the gallery also. They’re artists through and through after all. Hofford - In the end it’s great art, whether it’s on the street, on canvas or whatever. That’s what we want to do, promote the fact they are great artists.
DD: What artists will be showing work?
Frankie Shea: As mentioned before Moniker’s roster of artists is focusing on the finer side of the street art movement with a truly international cross section of some of its most serious players. We have work by Swoon, Steve Powers, Herakut, Banksy, Ben Eine, Polly Morgan and Shepard Fairey. Ben and Steve have been specially commissioned to paint the exterior walls. Ben once painted the wall illegally and has now been given special permission to paint it again, this time legally for Moniker.
Hofford: We wanted to bring a show element to the fair by having six project spaces which will be a space for artists such as Ben Eine & Polly Morgan to do a full installation, a solo show, or whatever they may want. Moniker will take place at Village Underground in East London. The exterior of the building features three panels, which will be painted live during the days and with real-time video footage being shown at the fair during the evenings.
DD: You mention elevating street art, is that a reflection in the prices as well as the level of talent on show?
Frankie Shea: We see Moniker becoming an on-going annual event. We hope for it to grow organically and become a major date in the art fair calendar. It’s a serious event for serious collectors and art enthusiasts with pieces selling anywhere between a couple hundred pounds to £100,000. By timing the event at the same time as Frieze we hope to attract some of the expected 60,000 art buyers that will be in London.
Moniker opens on Thursday the 14th of October at Village Underground, Hollywell Lane, East London, with live painting during the day on the 15th, 16th and 17th and also films Beautiful Losers, Bomb it 2 and Gorilla Art being shown in the evenings.
Moniker will also give War Child per cent of all profits from selling the Moniker catalogue and are offering War Child a charity signing up station should anyone want to sign up to be donors.