My Cultural Life: Will Ramsay

The Affordable Art Fair founder on what he’s listening to, reading and more

Will Ramsay Affordable Art Fair
Will Ramsay

Affordable Art Fair founder Will Ramsay has been on a mission to make art accessible to the masses since opening his gallery, Will’s Art Warehouse, in 1996. Following a stint in the British army, his determination to ‘demystify the idea of owning original art’ bore the idea for a vast exhibition that would connect emerging artists and gallerists with the art-loving – but often intimidated – public. In the last 20 years, 13 more fairs have launched as far afield as Melbourne and Singapore, and the website introduced two years ago has so far seen growth double year-on-year.

Papa Was A Rollin' Stone by The Temptations record
Neil Baylis / Alamy

My all-time favourite piece of music is the 12-minute version of Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone by The Temptations – not for the sentiment of the lyrics, but for the coolest orchestral composition of the 1970s.

The record that makes me instantly happy is Follow The Sun by Xavier Rudd. It never fails to lift me – he's telling us to follow our dreams.

The book that has had the strongest influence on me is a biography of my grandfather, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the Dunkirk evacuation in the D-Day landings. It has inspired me to try and do something worthwhile with his genes...

Sir Bertram Ramsay and Sir Arthur Tedder 
Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay / Photo 12 Alamy

At the moment I’m reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which has helped me to appreciate their extraordinary longevity and magnificence. I love planting trees on my farm in Scotland. We are only passing through, and we must try to leave the world a better place.

A quote that makes me think is ‘drawing is taking a line for a walk’ by artist Paul Klee, because art can be peripatetic therapy for us all, as creators or viewers. At Affordable Art Fair we support charities that use art therapy, be it to help soldiers suffering from PTSD, children with learning difficulties or cancer sufferers.

My favourite gallery is Villa Borghese in Rome, for its fabulous Bernini sculptures. Another is the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, where my favourite piece is Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of the Fog, which for me encapsulates Victorian optimism and entrepreneurialism.

Staircase in Hamburger Kunsthalle
Hamburger Kunsthalle / Look Alamy

I collect what I love, which is currently sculpture, photography and video art.

If I had a free day in London, I’d wander the streets of the East End. I love imagining the past through architecture; buildings tell amazing stories of Britain’s bygone eras.

River Tay in Glen lyon Scotland
Glen Lyon / Farlap Alamy

My favourite place in the world is Glen Lyon in the Scottish Highlands. I feel free walking in the hills or fishing.

For me, the democratisation of art means maintaining that emphasis on accessibility and education, and removing pretension!

The Affordable Art Fair is on from 12-15 March in Battersea, for more details visit

A version of this article appeared in the November 2019 issue of ELLE Decoration

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