A few days ago I was asked what and art fair actually was. An art fair is an event unlike any other museum exhibition or gallery show. It’s really a hard thing to describe because it is part art show, in that everything is for sale, and part a convention of some sort. The major fairs are in Switzerland (Art Basil being the original), Madrid, Cologne, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Miami, and New York.
The show side of a fair generally starts the day or night before the public opening with the VIP preview for mostly invited guests that include major galleries and collectors. The public is allowed in the next day for a fee, so basically you are paying for the right to buy something but only if you can afford it and only if the VIPs didn’t snap it up before you. This also means the fair organizer is making money off both the public and the gallery owners. A minimum booth at the Armory Fair costs $40,000 and a one day general admission ticket costs $30. The prevailing opinion is that it has to be a buyers market because there is so much art around but I have already seen things priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars so I don't know how true that could be.
For the past few years it’s been hard for galleries, especially new galleries, to make any money at fairs so now they tend to use the events as a chance to build relationships with other galleries and artists. Yet, as I said, booths are expensive so most everything is for sale however there is no law that says an owner has to sell it to you and some dealers are always looking to place their works with well known collectors. For an emerging artist trying to establish a career it's just to be seen at the fairs. Than again there are many artists like myself who have almost a private relationship with their work and feel strange seeing it viewed in public. I'm far from being the only artist who could best be described as an enigma.
With dealers, galleries, curators and collectors all attending it's a convention with a very artistic side. The social aspect of a major art fair can turn the city into one big block part with shows, parties, dinners, and special events crowding the calendar. A place to see and be seen, to network, to meet that gallery owner or artist or curator, find funding for a project, or maybe finally land that solo show.
Among the things I personally want to see is a forum with Gary Tinterow the curator of the recent Picasso exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It seems to be sold out but I’m still working on that, I’ll get myself in there one way or another.