When thinking of art fairs, we immediately tend to refer to the large-scale trade shows, like Art Basel, Freeze or TEFAF, however, the local art fairs are just as important and provide opportunities for representation and exhibition. The critical difference is that, in a major or a medium-size art fair, the gallerists are the protagonists, that exhibit the artists they represent.
Gallery representation is not commonplace for most artists; more than half of the artists worldwide, according to Artnet, are not represented by physical galleries. It is easily justified: there is always a risk for dealers in starting to show a new, unknown artist.
For the artist, the critical task is to get on the radar. Paradoxically, this means that the best way to get someone else to show your work is sometimes to start by taking on exhibition opportunities on your own.
So, participating in an art fair that gathers a large number of visitors among which are gallerists, art dealers, talent hunters, and collectors with purchasing power is a no-brainer for any artist at the beginning of their journey. But here comes the big question:
How much does participating in an art fair cost?
Well, the issue is more complicated than it may seem. Major art fairs, that prefer working with galleries rely on the Rent Fees they get per each sq.m. of “Booth space” - the larger a gallery’s exhibition space, the more it costs. That’s why in major art fairs, the most significant and central areas are occupied by blue-chip galleries: Gagosian, David Zwirner, White Cube, Perrotin to name just a few, since they can afford to pay roughly 1000 USD per sq.m. by exhibiting and selling multi-million dollar artwork.
Smaller fairs have more modest Booth Costs, that typically are 300-500 USD per sq.m., and are generally less picky when it comes to the exhibitor selection.
The artist-focused fairs that generally exhibit emerging and lesser-known talents, are often supported by government cultural programs, local businesses, corporations or are self-financed to cover the venue cost, labour, advertisement, marketing and other essential expenses. They tend to have the lowest Booth Costs on the market that generally range 100-300 USD per sq.m.
What are the three most essential cost aspects of any temporary art exhibition:
Application Fee - Rarely absent, in most cases range from 30 USD to 100 USD
Booth Cost - Varies greatly, is calculated per sq. m.
Installation and Transport - Applies to most major art fairs, where galleries are looking to arrange their exhibition space with the help of Exhibition designers. In smaller art fairs the installation is often assigned to the artists - they are expected to purchase or rent foldable and reusable exhibition panels, chairs, tables or other furniture for an approximate cost of 150 USD.
It is essential to keep in mind:
Sales and Commissions - different fairs have various policies of Sale during the event. At some, it is possible to perform transactions directly between each gallery or participant; at others, the transactions are only allowed through the internal system that then takes its “cut” off the sale.
Framing costs - framing is not necessary, but in some cases, it does add to the artwork’s attractiveness for the collectors at the fair who may be looking for a "ready-to-hang" piece.
Travel and accommodation costs - If the art fair in question is taking place outside of one’s place of residence, it may be useful to arrange for all the collateral and travel activities in advance.
Comparison of costs is relative and refers to online sources indicated below.
REA! Art Fair, being a non-profit organisation, compares to most fairs in the absence of Booth Costs. However, a modest Application fee is requested from artists to partially support this year’s Edition.
Following our long-term vision, we hope to be able to create more opportunities and abolish all costs for artists during the future editions and enable more emerging creators to participate and exhibit their artwork for free.
Interested to know more about the cost of art fairs? Take a Look at these!