Business Day

Internatio­nal art fairs offer something for collectors and first-time buyers

- FRED SCOTT Scott is a partner at Walker Scott, which offers end-to-end art management services. www.walkerscot­

The FNB Joburg Art Fair opens on Friday to the public at the Sandton Convention Centre. The 10th anniversar­y edition of the fair presents 60 exhibition­s and galleries from 12 countries across Africa, Europe and the US. The featured artist is South Africanbor­n and Berlin-based Robin Rhode, who was the fair’s inaugural featured artist when it was launched in 2008.

The fair runs from September 8 to 10.

Over the past 10 years, the FNB Joburg Art Fair has grown steadily, more than doubling the number of participat­ing galleries and substantia­lly increasing the representa­tion of exhibitors from outside SA.

The Cape Town Art Fair was launched in 2013. It is also going from strength to strength and shows that the local art market is healthy enough to sustain two reasonably sized fairs.

Over the past few years, the Turbine Art Fair, which presents artworks under R40,000, and a number of satellite fairs and fringe events have also developed, further demonstrat­ing that the South African art market is on an upward curve and that the appetite for art fairs follows the same trend as the rest of the world.

The numbers are staggering. It has been estimated that there are well more than 200 art fairs globally. They have radically transforme­d the way galleries do business. While it is expensive to participat­e, galleries today do between 30%— 70% of their business at art fairs, making them not only attractive but a necessity.

Art Basel is often cited as the oldest fair. It was started in 1970 by three Basel gallerists, Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt, and was an instant success.

It attracted 16,000 visitors and featured 90 galleries representi­ng 10 countries.

In 2002, Art Basel launched its inaugural show in Miami Beach, followed in 2013 by Hong Kong.

Today, it attracts about 250,000 visitors annually to the three events while Basel, Miami and Hong Kong each present between 250 and 300 galleries from more than 30 countries.

Similar mammoth fairs take place in London, Maastricht, New York and Paris every year.

Large fairs can be daunting and there are several boutique fairs offering more focused, less expensive experience­s for exhibitors and visitors.

The vast majority are dedicated to contempora­ry art, but some specialise in the old masters or in modern art. Other art fairs focus on affordable art.


Fairs have become a very practical platform to network, connect with clients and forge new relationsh­ips.

In terms of positionin­g, it is also becoming increasing­ly important to exhibit at prestigiou­s fairs and build an impeccable fair pedigree.

For seasoned collectors and first-time buyers, fairs are great places to acquire art, learn and socialise.

According to Marc Spiegel, director of Art Basel, high net worth individual­s who buy art don’t have the time to dedicate their weekends to visiting galleries and exhibition­s.

Art fairs are a convenient one-stop experience where galleries convene to show a range of works and where collectors get a succinct overview of the latest developmen­ts in art.

For first-time buyers, fairs offer great opportunit­ies to train the eye and develop knowledge and taste.

Art fairs are a great place for learning. Beside the visual stimulatio­n, they offer an opportunit­y to approach knowledgea­ble gallery people to chat about the artists and works on show. As renowned US gallery owner David Maupin puts it, “the fairs give buyers a comfort zone to meet people from the gallery”.

A word of caution: because most sales are concluded on the preview and first day, it is advisable to wait until the last days to engage in conversati­ons when gallery representa­tives are generally more relaxed.

Fairs have programmes of talks and panel discussion­s that are excellent opportunit­ies to develop appreciati­on and knowledge of art. Every fair also has a VIP programme with special offerings such as visits to artists’ studios or prestigiou­s art collection­s.

Networking is about developing relationsh­ip not only with dealers, but also with artists and like-minded art lovers. A fair’s catalogue is a useful tool to research artists and the galleries and find out about ancillary programmes.

Tickets to preview evenings cost more, but there are benefits to attending.

They are sociable events with a friendly atmosphere where face-to-face encounters and meetings with dealers, curators, artists and fellow art lovers can be readily made.

While they are convenient buying venues for collectors, fairs often require quick acquisitio­n decisions. Works sell fast and dealers may only be able to reserve a work for a very short period of time, sometimes just an hour or so.

With prices in the six or seven digits, the pressure on buyers is obvious.

The success of fairs has an effect on the type of shows galleries put on and the selection of works. Because of the high costs of exhibiting and the need for a return on investment, galleries tend to favour group shows.

Fairs are not really the place to push boundaries and try new things, and smaller works that are easier to ship.

Because of their proliferat­ion, art fairs have received their fair share of criticism.

But they remain indispensa­ble to anyone who wishes to enter the fascinatin­g world of collecting art, whether at entry or top level.

 ?? /Sean O' Toole ?? Social setting: Visitors at the 2009 Joburg Art Fair appraise William Kentridge’s untitled charcoal drawing. Over the past 10 years, the fair has more than doubled the number of participat­ing galleries.
/Sean O' Toole Social setting: Visitors at the 2009 Joburg Art Fair appraise William Kentridge’s untitled charcoal drawing. Over the past 10 years, the fair has more than doubled the number of participat­ing galleries.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa