The Role of the Art Fair

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 This attitude now seems outdated.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.

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