Until recently I had never been so involved in or had even heard of some of the existing art fairs- Frieze London, Frieze New York, Art Basel, Art Basel Miami, The Armory Show, AB Berlin, FICA and FOG- just to name a few. Being well under the pay grade and not a high-end artist, the art market has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Something not quiet tangible- present but equally as abstract to me as the genera of abstract art is to some.
But seriously, who really determines the numbers on the price tags and who are these people spending this kind of money!
I studied art history as an undergraduate and earning a masters degree in museum studies. My role was primarily education through art and art preservation. I was always on the outskirts of the market and only through collectors willing to donate did I have fleeting moments of connection to the idea of buying and selling art. I understood, of course, that price tags are dependent on many variables- sometimes the year the work was crated, sometimes the technique, branding, the rarity and/or general social trends but now that I work for an artist I have greater insight. I am now one of those people. I now help confirm selling prices. I make sure artwork gets to galleries and I assist on a focal point around sales.
One thing that I have learnt is that with these larger art fairs comes an air of exclusivity. Aside from the price tags and those who can afford them, as a gallery, to have a booth in the fair costs money, as an artist, to have work exhibited in a fair it is almost exclusively through a representative gallery and as a viewer, just to enter some of these fairs as a viewer can cost anywhere from 30 -50 euro a pop.
There is no doubt that art fairs are an important part of the art world and can be lucrative for an artist and their representative galleries. For those artists lucky enough, the fairs can add an element of suitability to their careers. It is how artists and galleries make money and network for larger commissions. However, art fairs are sitting closer to the top of the art world hierarchy. For those who can play the game art fairs are fun. They are trend setting, and a way to gain and share beauty. It is a shame that they come with limitations based on, of course, money and selection.
Despite the fact that this is a part of the art world that I relate to the least, I remain curious. I am excited at the opportunity to continue to understand. I am grateful to have further insight into the curation, representation, the conversations as well as the varying personalities of collectors and artist. I admit, I am also grateful for free entrance tickets.
Thank you for reading Bc…WHY NOT?!
Photo credit: Julian Theo Wacker