smART Collecting – Art Fairs for Collectors


Art fairs are a great place to start a collection. New collectors can use fairs to develop their eye and find a direction. As a new collector, you can come in and see many galleries as well as take advantage of programming like a lecture or a demonstration that might be useful when you’re just beginning to develop your eye for art.

Experienced collectors, knowing that dealers often save their best material for fairs, rush to be the first in the door.

How Do Art Fairs Work?
Established galleries rent booths at  fairs to expose their artists to a wider public. Collectors feel safe buying here because they know in advance that the dealers are reliable. At many fairs, the art has also been vetted, which means that a team of experts has determined that everything is authentic. When that’s the case, you can buy with confidence.

Leading fairs include Art Basel in Basel and Miami, Frieze in London, the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, and the Art Dealers Association of America Art Show in New York City. The biggest fairs, with smaller satellite fairs and long menus of ancillary programming, draw visitors from all over the world. In addition to these high-profile events, there are dozens of other fairs throughout the U.S. and the world.

Advantages of Art Fairs
Fairs are unparalleled opportunities for all collectors to see an outstanding array of top-quality art. In addition, many collectors find fairs less intimidating than galleries. The environment is more casual and dealers are approachable.
Some of the fairs are extremely high-end, with million-dollar price tags. It’s still worth going, even if all you can afford is an admission ticket. In one place, you get to see a large section of the art market. You’d have to spend a lot of Saturdays going to galleries to see as much. It’s also a great way to get to see work from other regions and countries.

Disadvantages of Art Fairs
Fairs can be overwhelming and the competitive frenzy and compressed timeframe do not encourage quiet contemplation. When you start out, you’ll probably spend time in each booth, but after a while, you’ll start zooming past the booths unless something happens to catch your eye. You can miss things that way. Make a plan before you set out. Decide in advance what type of art you want to look at. Or, if you really want to stroll and discover new things, take breaks so that you stay fresh and focused.

Fair booths are comparatively small, and though dealers put enormous effort into their installations, a booth cannot match the breadth or depth of a gallery exhibition. At a gallery, a collector can usually see many more examples of an artist’s work and get more information before making an acquisition. Though fairs have their place, collectors should make a point of also visiting galleries.

Andrew Wolf, LLC
19th & 20th Century Fine Art, Art Pottery, Sculpture & Books

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