May is my favourite time of year. And not only because the days are longer and warmer, and the beachfront beer gardens are starting to open, no. It’s because I get to nose around houses all over the city in the guise of being an art lover.
Brighton’s Artists Open Houses (AOH) festival (30 April-30 May) is one of the Spring highlights in the city. Running alongside the Brighton Festival and the Brighton Fringe, each weekend in May, artists are throwing open their doors in Brighton, Hove, Ditchling and Rottingdean to showcase their craft. This year, more than 1,200 artists are taking part, exhibiting their work in nearly 200 private homes, studios and venues, and offering art lovers the chance to meet and buy direct from the artists. Plus, there’s very often cake and wine on offer too.
This year, the festival sees 60 brand-new AOH venues dotted around Brighton and Hove, so in order to see the best of them, grab an Artists Open Houses map and take one of the 14 walking trails in the city including Hanover, Fiveways, Kemp Town and Hove.
What I like most about the Artists Open Houses festival is that it’s entirely inclusive and any artist can take part, so you get this real mash up of the weird and the wonderful, and with many of Brighton’s up-and-coming artists exhibiting, you may even uncover a true investment piece.
At the Claremont’s open house launch party, I met Adam Laurence Hedley, an artist taking part in the festival for the first time. “I only moved down to Brighton two months ago,” said Adam, whose striking paintings are displayed in the Claremont Hotel on Second Avenue in Hove. Largely inspired by his environment, Adam creates most of his work outside. “It’s a bit of a statement, I suppose. Although my art is not political, so few artists can actually afford studios these days, I have to work outside,” explained Adam, whose first solo exhibition will be at the Junk Yard Dogs in Kemp Town in June.
I also meet Coralie Maynard Banks, the curator of Claremont’s open house. “It’s the fourth year we’ve taken part, and this year is the biggest yet,” said Coralie. “We’re featuring 39 artists throughout the hotel, which will be open to visitors 11.30 –18:00 every weekend in May.” As I wander around the hotel, a grand Victorian seaside villa, the art on display varies from huge canvases of colourful beach huts to sculptures of Mr Punch, and there’s definitely a seaside theme. I was particularly taken with the ceramic bust of a greyhound with sparkling blue eyes wearing a tiny red velvet top hat.
Artist Yvette from Little Papa House is hosting her first open house near Hanover (11:00-17:00 weekends only at 338 Queens Park Road). Her series of fun, colourful jewellery, including my favourite tiny Fab lolly brooches, will be on display in her home throughout May. “I’ve always wanted to open my house up for the May Artists Open Houses. After displaying my work in other venues over the years, I’ve made the dream a reality this year,” said Yvette, who will also showcase 14 other artists in her home and offer art workshops in the shed. “Brighton is such a vibrant city, bursting at the seams with art and creativity, and that’s why the open houses work so well,” explained Yvette.
So whether it’s a pop art picture of Lana Turner with a Day of the Dead skullface or a teeny tiny sardine tin diorama, at Brighton’s Artists Open Houses festival you’re guaranteed to find something quite out of the ordinary.
Ready to experience this festival for yourself? Check out our Brighton hotel deals to start planning your seaside escape.