Rather than go from gallery to gallery hunting for the perfect artwork, collectors are now turning towards international art fairs as a convient way of seeing lots of art in a short amount of time. According to a report published by Arts Economics, in 2016 gallerists 40% of artwork sales took place at art fairs.
But given the profileration of art fairs in recent years, it can sometimes be hard to know which ones are worth a visit. Here is a short guide to some of the world’s best international art fairs.
There are generally few reasons why one might go to Basel but, once a year, the art world flocks to this Swiss city to attend the famous Art Basel fair. Founded by 3 swiss gallerists, Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner et Balz Hilt, in 1970 the art fair now hosts 290 galleries from over 35 different countries. The fair is a prestigious affair that often attracts very VIP guests (think Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Leonardo DiCaprio and more). Alongside celebrity spotting, Basel is also a good place to learn about important established and emerging artists of the year.
When? In June
The glamours TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) takes place in the small but cute town of Maastricht in the Netherlands. This important art and antiques fair, founded by art dealers in 1988, is very wide ranging. You’ll find everything from manuscripts and coins to antiques, silverware, jewelry, porcelain, furniture and, of course, amazing art from antiquity to contemporary. The 280 or so galleries display the works of great masters such as Van Gogh and Picasso. The art fair is a feast for the eyes but unless you have several thousands of euros to spare you’ll definitely stick to window shopping.
When? In March
Oh Paris, its Eiffel Tower, its cathedrals and its FIAC. No, no, not Fiat. The FIAC is the most important contemporary art fair in France. The high quality of the works presented are not works of very high quality are not the only ones to make his reputation. For this event, public and private museums, auction houses, galleries and even art advisors compete all compete for the art world’s attention by hosting exclusive events.
When? In October
Frieze London, the UK’s biggest art fair, was founded in 2003 and along with its younger sibling Frieze Masters, it competes with TEFAF and the likes of Art Basel and FIAC. It is notable for having been created by the editors of the eponymous magazine which aims to decode current art trends. This is why the organisers, in addition to scheduling debates and symposiums, also commission big names in art criticism to design entire sections of the fair.
When? In October
Hola! Madrid is not only the land of tapas, sangria and siesta. There is also ARCO Madrid, one of the most visited contemporary art fairs in the world. It’s a great fair to head to if you’re interested in discovering or re-discovering contemporary Latin American art in Europe. Originally, the ARCO Foundation was created in 1987 to promote, research and disseminate contemporary art, as well as teach and produce publications focusing trends and artistic techniques, particularly with regard to modern art forms. The works in the collection – one of the most remarkable collections of contemporary art in Spain – have been exhibited at ARCO Madrid every year since 1987. The fair has recently invested in Portugal with Arco Lisboa.
When? In February
In New York
The Armory Show is the cultural destination of choice for discovering (and acquiring) key artworks from the 20th and 21st century. The fair, which takes place on Piers 92 and 94, features major international galleries and commissions from innovative artists. Founded in 1994 by four New York gallery owners, its name is reminiscent of the 1913 Armory Show, which paved the way for the Big Apple as the world’s capital of art. At the 1913 show, however, President Theodore Roosevelt exclaimed “This is not art!” and that Matisse’s paintings were judged “indecent” even “epileptic”.
When? In March
Art Cologne is a pioneering fair and is considered the oldest art fair of its kind. Its founders, the gallery owners Rudolf Zwirner and Hein Stünke, were inspired by Documenta and more specifically its third edition in 1964. Their intention was to create a similar meeting place but which would present a selection of galleries rather than a selection of artists. While there were only 18 galleries for the first edition in 1967, the fair now includes around 200 galleries from 31 countries, all exhibiting contemporary art and modern art.
When? In April
Basically, if you enjoy travelling, you might want to consider a career in the art world.