Introducing Fresh: Contemporary Art Fair

Taking place at Cheltenham Racecourse from 12th to 14th May 2017

Fresh: is something new for the Cotswolds - and it’s far more than any ordinary art fair. Visit live studios where artworks are created before your eyes. Browse and buy from over 5,000 works (from over 45 participating galleries). And if you’ve got a painting at home originating from the early 20th century (and earlier), fine art auctioneers Bonhams will be providing free valuations on the day.

Fresh: is the joint creation of Anthony Wardle - a marketing specialist who has worked for Saatchi & Saatchi and the Bath Contemporary Art Fair - and his daughter Elena, who runs the Paragon Gallery in Cheltenham.

‘When I worked for Charles [Saatchi] I was surrounded with all the beautiful contemporary art in his collection - it’s there I got the bug, really,’ Anthony tells us.

‘It didn’t take long for us to realise that there was no art fair in Cheltenham - or indeed the towns and cities surrounding it - Birmingham, Oxford, Cardiff even. There’s a big gap in the market - so we thought we’d do one of our own. And as we got into thinking it through, we realised there were other things we could do, that we could perhaps raise the bar for provincial art fairs.’

When it comes to art lovers, there are many different species. There are the newcomers who enjoy the spectacle of art, but have yet to make their first purchase; those whose homes are enhanced by several works, yet still have much of the market to explore; and the seasoned collectors, who actively seek out scorching new talent to invest in. How will Fresh: cater for all these people?

‘One of the words we use a lot in describing the art fair is accessible,’ Anthony says. ‘We want to make things accessible in art; particularly attracting newcomers to the contemporary art world. We’re going to do is help people understand what they’re seeing - it won’t be just walking around looking at things as decor to finish off a room, but understanding what they really love about what they’re seeing. To find the paintings and sculptures that truly give an emotional reward.

‘We also want people to see the artistic endeavour - the effort that goes into what can be seen at a glance. It’s fascinating how they get there, the eccentric stories behind the works. We want all our visitors to understand the background to what they’re seeing.

‘We want to convert newcomers, but we also want to help enthusiasts expand their horizons, encounter new work. That’s why were bringing a lot of fresh faces. Some of the galleries exhibiting don’t usually exhibit at art fairs - so there’ll be lots of work entering the market. You’ll see lots of new stuff.

‘And the third dimension is the collectors. These are experienced people, always looking for artists from whom to collect a range of work. And that’s not always easy to find - a lot of artists are quite singular in their painting. So we’re going to help collectors find new talent to latch onto.’

There’s going to be a touch of the Antiques Roadshow to Fresh:, Anthony tells us.

‘The valuations are really exciting. Everybody’s got an old painting in the house that they walk past every day and never look at, maybe wondering if they should sell it but not knowing how - or indeed, how much it’s worth. Bonhams are going in the main reception area, giving valuations free of charge. And if people like the valuations, they can ask Bonhams to consign the works to auction. People are invited to bring works from early twentieth century (and earlier).’

It might very well be a world-first for art fairs. We’ll have a poke around in the attic, then. But we’re also pretty interested in seeing some art made before our eyes. What’s the deal with the live studios?

‘The live studios will give newcomers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of artists,’ Anthony enthuses. ‘There will be two studios, based in seperate locations up on the balcony. There will be a range of half a dozen artists over the course of a weekend, working in a medium of their choice.

‘Visitors can really watch the work evolve. Some of the watercolourists are very quick: a painting can be accomplished in half-an-hour, from start to finish!’

Art-loving visitors will be able to see work from Royal Academicians and Royal West of England Academicians, as well as the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. Notable Cotswold Exhibitors include John Noott Galleries of Broadway; The Priory Art Gallery, Broadway; Albion Gallery, Chipping Norton; Wren Fine Art, Burford; David Simon Fine Art of Bath; Paragon Gallery of Cheltenham; Hadfield Fine Art; Little Buckland Gallery; Wetpaint Gallery of Chalford (who will represent local sculptor Sophie Ryder) and Olivia Connelly Fine Art.

Fresh: even has its own charity initiative, Fresh: Start, which will raise money for St Mungo’s, who support homeless people.

Anthony and Elena have certainly given themselves lots to pull off in the very first Fresh:, but their obvious enthusiasm and confidence assure us that this might be the start of something special. ‘There’s a lot of things we can do, and think we can do well,’ he says. And we believe him.

Opening hours and ticket information

A Weekend Ticket admits TWO, any time Friday to Sunday. Or head to our offer page to see how you can get FREE access to Fresh: on the Saturday and Sunday.

Opening Hours:

Friday 12th May - 11.00am to 8.30pm

Saturday 13th May - 11.00am to 6.00pm

Sunday 14th May - 11.00am to 5.00pm

For more information, visit