Everyone wins at an art fair. There are various explanations as to why it is a success. But one easily ignored factor is its straight-forward format. It is not too dissimilar to the bazaar of the East, and the result is high concentration of all the stakeholders crammed into one big melting pot to exchange ideas and to transact.
Art fairs are really valuable from a collectors point of view. If you are strapped for time, then you have a high concentration of all the major galleries represented in one place
Normally galleries and dealers are geographically dispersed. In contrast, the fair ensures that all the art dealers are where you are. During the fair, you will find the gallery representatives an approachable lot to ask about the art at display.
Although auction houses are still playgrounds for high end private collectors and museums, the art fairs are increasingly visited by these market segments as well. You don’t have to look far for the answer. Art fairs are synonymous with sensible art investment in emerging talent before it becomes costly on the secondary market. By visiting a few fairs, you can take the pulse of the current art market and make more informed buying decisions.
Armed with know-how, the art fair is where you can collect curated art before it has appreciated in value
Which art fair?
Where to go is a very individual question, determined not least by what you’ve decided to collect, and when. Many European cities want to be your art city. Frieze in London is well worth a visit. It is generally held in a temporary building erected in Regents Park. On the upside it is one of the most sprawling and diverse exhibition of what’s possible. On the downside, the opening hours aren’t long.
dOCUMENTA in Germany is a fabulous bi-annual event generally known for being ahead of the curve. Some would debate whether it is a biennale or an art fair. Let’s just call it an art fair for now. More importantly, it is increasingly visited by ‘has beens’, and celebrities such as Brad Pit, Karl Lagerfeld and Wolfgang Joop’. While these people positively raise the populartity of the event and highlights the importance of art, they also buy their art at inflated prices. It means that if you want to buy rather than look, then it might pay to skip this one and hop somewhere else.
Most countries have art fairs in their capital cities at different times and places, and they all have very imaginative and surprising names such as: Art Copenhagen, Art Amsterdam, Art Brussels and Art Zürich.
Art fairs in the shrewd Berlin fashion
One thing, though, that Berlin has understood better than any art fair city, is the value of clustering the events in the calendar.
It sounds daft at first, but the fact that you can attend 5 different art fairs in Berlin in September alone, means that you are much more likely to take time out for a prolonged stay in Berlin. This is particularly attractive because there is a slight overlap between them. It also means that you are much more likely to go to Berlin in the first place. Once you have been, then you have placed the city firmly on your world map of art — if you haven’t already.
The major ones
At the risk of upsetting a few people (Sorry), some important fairs are:
•Tefaf in Maastrict
•Art Cologne plus
•The Paris and Florence Biennales.
Outside Europe there are many others to consider. Art Basel Miami, Miami International Art fair, Los Angeles Contemporary, Melbourne Art Fair, ART HK in Hong Kong, and Art Stage Singapore.