BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Throughout the last months we shared a few stories with you that make the world of collecting so versatile. The relationship between art and nature, collecting excessiveness or private projects rooms are topics that have been discussed in short texts - published here on the blog and printed in the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors.

In the following Shorty, Art Guide author Silvia Anna Barrilà talks about the role of fairs in the art world. With the art fair season kicking off soon, this piece is the perfect read to get a brief overview of the history of this event. Enjoy.

Once upon the time, in the late 1960s, there were three Swiss art dealers who founded an art fair in Basel. Trudl Bruckner, Balz Hilt, and Ernst Beyeler went into direct competition with Art Cologne, the first contemporary art fair, which had just been founded in Cologne, Germany. “Now, the art markets chase the exhibitors,” read the headline of a German newspaper in 1971. This attitude now seems outdated. For the past ten years, the number of art fairs has increased with the growing global interest in contemporary art. Now an art fair is held somewhere in the world almost every week.Some of these fairs have become essential events, participation in which is important for the reputation of a gallery. Among these is the Frieze Art Fair in London, which expanded into New York in 2012 to compete with the traditional Armory Show. Art Basel has also extended its influence to the United States, establishing Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002. Its most recent expansion is in Asia: Art Basel in Hong Kong takes place for the first time in 2013. In the Middle East, Art Dubai still dominates, while in South America the Art Rio has come into gallery owners’ increasing focus, attracted as they are by the purchasing power of local collectors. There are also, of course, the countless satellite fairs that occur around all of these main events.The question is, who benefits? The many fair dates pressure artists to continuously produce more works. For the gallery, an art fair is an enormous investment with an uncertain result. And for visitors and collectors, they can be exhaustive. Nevertheless, art fairs remain the best way to learn about the latest developments in the art world, to meet gallery owners from abroad, and to discover new artists and trends.

The freelance journalist Silvia Anna Barrilà is specialized in the art market. Since 2008 she has been writing for the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and for international media covering art, including Damn, Auction Central News, Artinvestor, and Monopol.

Insiders (68)


Exhibition venue with the theme ‚Living with Art‘

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums