art insider | Mar 22, 2018 |
Why art fairs are increasingly relevant

In this column I usually focus on practical tips for designers to pitch art to their clients. But today, we’re taking a detour and talking about art fairs.

Katharine Earnhardt's photo of Andy Warhol's "Lips," taken at Danziger Gallery
Katharine Earnhardt’s photo of Andy Warhol’s ‘Lips,’ taken at Danziger Gallery

I’ve spent a solid chunk of time this month hopping around art fairs, touring clients and designers, and blasting pics on Instagram. Since I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night, I’m feeling like I can do anything, and the first item on my list is writing a blog point on the point of it all.

Art fairs are a bunch of galleries, each with its own booth, exhibiting art that’s for sale. The booths are all gathered in a given location (like an incredibly expensive tent, or the Park Avenue Armory) for about five days. Visitors come to the fair to browse and buy, and those visitors include professionals in the industry and your average culturally curious urbanite.

The point of the fairs differs depending on who you are, so here’s a rundown:

For the gallery: The point of art fairs is to (1) expose the gallery and inventory of art to a broad audience in a condensed period of time, and (2) sell art and, let’s hope, return on the investment made to participate in the art fair (booth cost, art transport, staffing).

For the interior designer: The point of art fairs is to (1) see a ton of art in a condensed period of time to consider for current and future projects, and (2) increase awareness of the various galleries and resources available for art buying.

For the art adviser: The point of art fairs is to (1) see a ton of art in a condensed period of time to consider for current or future projects, (2) increase awareness of the various galleries and resources for art buying, (3) build relationships with those galleries to get preferential pricing and info on available art, and (4) continue building knowledge on art pricing and quality, which is key to successfully advising clients on buying wisely.

For the art fair: Yes, art fairs are a growing industry in their own right and their purpose in life is to make money.

For the average culturally curious urbanite: The point of art fairs is to (1) see what the fairs are all about, and (2) potentially buy art. (P.S. Art fairs are a great way to entertain the average culturally curious urbanite, so you may want to slip this into your client-entertainment calendar.)

A few important notes:

• Buying art or knowing a thing about it is not required.


• Ticket prices are usually $40 and under, depending on the fair.

• Alcohol and subpar food is always available.

• Charge your phone in advance; few fairs have charging stations and you’ll want to take pics.

• Do not wear heels.

Here’s a nice calendar of art fairs around the globe.

• For more tips from me and some other stellar art advisers from around the country, check out this post.

Now I’d like to hear back from you: Did you go to the fairs? Do you want to? Which did you like best? Share share share, and maybe we’ll do a future post with specific feedback on each fair (woot woot!).

Katharine Earnhardt is the president and founder of MASON LANE ART ADVISORY, a Brooklyn firm that styles walls nationwide.

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