The Bayswater Road Sunday Art Exhibition

Wally The Organ Grinder With His Parrot Was A Regular Attraction. This Drawing By Joan Dawson From The Old Days Shows Diane Elson's Work. Diane Still Exhibits At Bayswater To This Day!

Nestling deep in the centre of one of London’s most genteel residential districts lies the Bayswater Road Sunday Art Exhibition. Bordering the glorious Royal Parks, visitors can lap up the atmosphere of one of the world’s most famous open-air exhibitions, literally every Sunday of the year. Haydn Dickenson tells the living history of a vibrant part of London’s heritage.

In the 1950’s, the London County Council set up the Embankment Art Show in May each year. The self-representing artists wanted a regular exhibiting area though, so a band of them set up near Hyde Park Corner, not being moved on until roadworks in the 1960’s when they decided to decamp to Green Park, just off Piccadilly. In time, that spot overflowed, so the maverick band tried Bayswater Road opposite Queensway on the old Kensington Gardens wire fence (the ornate iron railings, now reinstated, had been torn down to be melted up for the war effort).

As the pioneering show grew, getting space to exhibit meant a night sleeping in the car. Parking on Bayswater Road was permitted from 6.30pm on Saturday, so artists would arrive the night before to secure their spot by marking their pitch with a painting or sign.  Groups of artists organised themselves by taking turns to stake a pitch for each other on alternate weekends, but it was not a safe place to be – assaults by drunks on the road were not uncommon. Many artists wore pyjamas under their day clothes for warmth, evidenced by two or three inches of stripy material flopping about the ankles when the time came to ply their wares the following morning!

Inevitably there was conflict over spaces, sometimes violent and involving money. The London Mob became involved, roping off large stretches of Bayswater Road, patrolling them with dogs and demanding money from artists for a pitch.

By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the show had mushroomed into a cornucopia of diverse items. Bric-a-brac, trinkets and cheap reproductions jostled for space alongside the genuine art, and brass-rubbing prints, paper flowers, clothing and even ladies’ underwear were all to be found. Hot-dog sellers, card tricksters and the like also made their presence known, and the fraud squad investigated the potential fencing of stolen art through the exhibition.

By now, the exhibition ran from Queensway to Marble Arch and beyond into Park Lane and local residents, unhappy at the increasingly ramshackle mess, tried to have the show shut down. Crisis meetings with the local council were held, and licensing was introduced in January 1973 to establish the exhibition as one with real credentials for the display of original art by self-representing artists only, a tradition which the Bayswater Road Art Association is proud to uphold to this day.

Headed up by David James (one of the Bayswater pioneers), Haydn Dickenson and a small committee, the Bayswater Road Sunday Art Exhibition will shortly celebrate its sixtieth birthday. Though smaller in recent years – due to the escalating ages of some exhibitors, and the changing shopping habits of the general public – the exhibition still packs a bohemian punch on a fine summer’s day, bursting with atmosphere and offering to the discerning public a huge variety of art across many genres. All exhibitors are self-representing artists – no dealers are permitted – so you can be sure you are buying original art, direct from the artist at studio prices. There is easy (and free) parking on the road, and many exhibitors offer chip-and-pin card payment facilities.

Many artists have been ‘discovered’ at Bayswater, being snapped up by agents or publishers to go on to bigger things – they often return to ‘Bays’ however, even if only to greet their old friends and relive a little of the Bayswater magic that they no doubt miss.

Alongside Montmarte, Bayswater surely ranks as one of the world’s most renowned open-air art events, and as it runs every single Sunday of the year from 0800 until it gets too cold or dark, there’s ample opportunity to pay a visit. Locals, whether buyers or just loyal supporters, become well-known to the artists, and overseas visitors return year after year.

Screen Shot 2019 04 25 At 16.32.08

Haydn runs Social Media pages at @BayswaterART (Twitter) and at @BayswaterRoadArt (Facebook), together with a website https://www.bayswater-road-artists.co.uk/  where you can contact him with inquiries and see what the show is doing from week to week. Several new artists are lined up to join this spring, and with plenty of vacancies for newcomers available, artists are actively encouraged to apply. The cost is low, the profile is high, and the camaraderie is second to none!

Banner 2 (2)

Maybe you’ll even get a bit of Bayswater-60th-birthday-cake in a couple of years’ time!

The article was created by our great talented artist Haydn Dickenson. Don’t forget to visit his profile. 

About the Author:

On the first place a true Art Lover. In BeArte Gallery I am responsible for Customer and SMM support. Copywriter and inspired News Manager.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *