WTF’s an Art Fair?
It’s almost spring in New York and Art Fairs are sprouting up all around the city. These bustling temporary hubs act as a trade show for the visual arts sector. Artists, dealers, art advisors, curators, collectors, and others in the art business fly in from all around the world for these events to participate in the art market.
The goal of the exhibitors is to stand out in the crowd by bringing their newest and most eye-catching pieces. While some fairs will designate areas where galleries or independent artists may show solo exhibitions or installations, mostly the exhibitions have not been filtered by critics and curators. Those eager to experience the newest artwork of today’s most prominent artists know there is no substitute and – though overwhelming – fairs are the best place to see the newest expressions of contemporary art.
Art Fairs typically charge for tickets to attend but they are open to the public. The Armory Show, for example, will attract the most prominent galleries and dealers from around the world. Larger fairs will have numerous booths where you’ll get the chance to see more work – a real bang for your buck! The newer-smaller fairs, often referred to as satellite fairs, cost less to attend, have fewer exhibitors, and tend to have less expensive, more experimental artworks. Satellite fairs, like Spring/Break, are a great place for new collectors to interact with emerging dealers and artists in a less formal environment than a gallery.
When choosing which day to attend a fair do some research on the fairs website to learn who will be exhibiting. If you decide you are interested in purchasing artworks, the first two days of a fair are the best time to go. You may consider springing for the VIP passes which get you into the fair during the Vernissage (opening night cocktail party). Otherwise, if you just want to see the work, proper etiquette would dictate that you wait until the last two days when the environment is less frenzied.
Fairs may seem frantic due to the fact that fairs are expensive for galleries to participate in. Some of the mega galleries have been known to shell out well over $350,000 to prop up a temporary Art Fair booth in a foreign city. Even more modest operations may shell out tens of thousands of dollars to exhibit. There are obvious costs like booth fees, travel, boarding, shipping the artworks, and costs which aren’t as evident like client dinners, employee stipends, relighting and rehanging once a work sells, and even catalogues. Galleries take these risks because usually they know that in attendance there will be VIP clients who, if schmoozed just the right way, will purchase five $200,000 artworks making the whole trip worthwhile. But exhibitors at an art fair may not have this experience and attending a fair may mean a significant loss for their business, it may mean the difference between continuing the business or closing up shop.
As opening night and the first day of a fair are critical for the exhibitors trying to sell work it is important to be mindful of the pressure they are under. If you are attending a fair on the opening day and find it difficult to interact with the dealers and the artists, know that they are probably trying to ensure their business stays afloat. Only serious inquiries should be made at this time. Yet, after the feverish buyer crowds subside on the second, third and fourth day of a fair, you will find that the exhibitors are more welcoming of conversations. They will be eager to inform you about the work because they are art professionals who love art.
Here are the New York fairs to check out this March:
Between 5th Avenue and Park Avenue, locations vary see map for details. Saturday, 3 p.m.–5 p.m.
February 28–March 3
The Park Avenue Armory; $25
Gala preview Wednesday; Thursday–Friday: 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
33 Bleecker Street; Free admission
Opening reception, Monday, 6 p.m.–8 p.m.; Tuesday–Saturday, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m.–5 p.m., closing reception 5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Hours and locations vary, see map for participating galleries and information.
866 UN Plaza, New York; $20
VIP preview, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Wednesday–Monday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Pier 94, and Pier 90, 711 12th Avenue at West 55th Street and West 48th Street; $52
VIP preview Wednesday; Thursday and Friday, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
Spring Studios, 50 Varick Street; $29
VIP preview, Thursday; Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
Pier 36, 299 South Street, New York
Preview, Thursday, 6 p.m.–10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
Metropolitan Pavilion, New York
Platinum and VIP previews, Thursday, 3 p.m.–6 p.m. and 6 p.m.–9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–7 p.m.
550 West 29th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues; $55 Thursday preview tickets, free Friday, $18 Saturday and Sunday with $35 networking brunch.
VIP preview, Thursday, 6 p.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, networking brunch 12 p.m.–2 p.m. and general hours 2 p.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday, networking brunch 12 p.m.–2 p.m. and general hours 2 p.m.–6 p.m.
Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue; $25
Preview Thursday, 5 p.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m–5 p.m.