by Maryna Rybakova
Art fairs are just like fast food: omnipresent and addictive. And just like a large portion of French fries everyone in the art world seems to be involved in a love-hate relationship with this exhibition format.
Besides being inherent to most dealers’ business model, it is also a much needed energy boost and moment of celebration, the creme de la creme coming together to meet, make sales and be merry. In the case of Art Basel Miami it is also an excuse to escape the freezing cold weather on the European continent .
An art fair as a social and cultural phenomenon has paved the way for neologisms like “fairtigue” and “jomo”.
Let’s take a look at the innovative Art Fairs that are challenging the global giants. Despite their versatile and often hard-to-pin-down nature, they may be arranged into 3 categories:
INDEPENDENT ARTISTS & CURATED SHOWS
Did you know that the early editions of the Venice Biennale were trade shows? Interestingly enough, the ban on sales was only introduced to the venetian show in the 1960s and the contemporary dealers are now striving to reinvent the curated trade show model.
The Others Art Fair in Turin focuses primarily on creating a platform for the artist-run and independent spaces, while Paratissima in the same city is bringing together a wide range of independent creators to exhibit in an underground and edgy setting. REA Art Fair in Milan, falls into the same category or artist-oriented shows, with its specific focus on promoting emerging talents.
Affordable Art Fair is an ever growing network of take-it-easy exhibition events where participating galleries and dealers only exhibit artwork that is worth less than 7.500 eur. A similar approach is adopted by Discovery Art Fair, whose director Jörgen Golz says: “Online galleries, producer galleries, pop-up exhibitions, corporate collections, university initiatives — to name but a few — they all stimulate and enrich the international art scenes. And above all, many artists promote their artworks themselves and are very good at representing themselves and their work on the market. Future-oriented art fair concepts must reflect these changes.
Future Fair in New York is adopting a new shareholder dividend-sharing model for the 36 participating galleries where the latter will benefit from the total amount of profits made by the fair. Rachel Mijares Fick: The biggest challenge for a small, independently run art fair is budget. We have to be very creative, resourceful and tight with how our galleries’ investment is used. This is also to our advantage, it forces us to be very conscientious and innovative within our limitations. Challenges allow new space for experimentation.
Art Fair in a Hotel? Why not! The challenge was taken on by the Felix LA Fair organizers, and the event was later on critically acclaimed by Jerry Saltz for being “what every art fair should be”. "Eye of the Collector" in London, ideated by Nazy Vassegh the ex-CEO of Masterpiece to be held in May 2020 in London, is thinking “outside of the booth”. Held in a neo-gothic Mansion in central London, the fair is said to host 30 carefully selected top tier galleries.
ART & TECHNOLOGY ALLIANCES
As a response to this year’s unusual condition most major fairs are starting to introduce online viewing and buying rooms as a means of creating a virtual fair experience, while actually the art fairs backed up by the technology are not all that new. The Californian edition of StARTup Fair had teamed up with the online art e-commerce ArtFinder. Just as you shouldn’t ever confuse Monet and Manet, another duo of soundalikes: The Other Art Fair by the online art giant SaatchiArt and The Others Art Fair (see above) featuring emerging galleries and artist run-spaces in Turin during the Artissima weekend. A Danish Enter Art Fair is powered by a technological company Artland, that is focused on recording and re-creating existing art spaces in 3D online environment. CADAF in that had its first 2 Editions in New York and Mami, is a Contemporary Digital Art Fair organized by New Art Academy.
Art Fair system critics claim that the industry should start adopting new approaches to replace the unsustainable, the carbon footprint-inducing mega expos. Will we see more locally-rooted art fairs in the nearest future fostering environmentally-conscious solutions to offset carbon footprint from art-related travel?
The appetite for the art fairs within the general public is growing and the exponential growth is likely to continue in the near future, according to the UBS 2020 Art Market Report the Art Fair attendance is growing year-by-year now averaging 7 international events per year per collector. The celebration, the fleer, the excitement of it will prevail, the challenge is to find the opportunities to make the art world's best attended events more sustainable, inclusive and open.