Fridge magnets of Red Sea fish or miniature whitewashed Greek villas are handy purchases when getting rid of foreign currency at airports. But fridge magnet art has never truly been recognised beyond the kitchen – until now.
The Brighton Open hopes to be "the biggest and most high profile" outdoor magnet show ever undertaken in the UK. Event organiser Alban Low will be sticking about 500 magnetic images by over 200 artists along Brighton's seafront as part of the Fringe Festival in May.
Members of the public can view the magnets stuck on bollards and railings near the pier, and even take one home for free.
"The fridge magnet is a vehicle for people to get their artwork seen," says Low. "And because of the low cost of actually producing it, ordinary people can start collecting art. Everyone's got a fridge. It goes right into the heart of people's homes. In this age of austerity, with hardly any public funding, it works because we rely purely on sponsorship."
Low's 'fridge magnet movement' started last year. By allowing the general public to submit up to two images to his exhibition website, he turns them into fridge magnets (5cm x 7cm) for free and exhibits them directly on the streets. The artist also receives a thank you magnet of their own work.
Low's first outdoor exhibition, in June 2010, saw magnet art mounted directly on the streets of Bath, as part of the Fringe Arts Bath Festival. The following month he put more magnets in Manchester's Arndale Centre, where shoppers picked them up. Then, last week, Low exhibited 250 magnets on the lampposts of Nottingham, as part of the Light Night festival.
"A lot of these artists have never had a chance to show their work in public before," says Low. "Artwork on a lamp post jumps out at you because it's so unexpected."
Images include erotic art, nature photographs and still lifes of grapes. Low's own series of magnets, entitled One-Sided Conversations, are titbits of information overheard on public transport, which he has turned into cartoons. "Councils think I'm flyposting or doing graffiti," he says, "but this is a great way to give people a voice without defacing anything."
The Brighton Open is at the entrance of Brighton Pier from 7-8 May. Deadline for entries is 1 April