ART FAIRS ECONOMY
A recent article in the Economist comments on the globalisation of art and how art fairs accelerate the transnational exposure of artists, something that could become necessary for artists if they want to attract the attention of serious collectors and art investors. Importantly, it also identifies the current international art fair hot spots. Read on for our summary of this article.
Globalisation of the art market
Globalisation is one of the most important phenomenon in the history of recent art. Contemporary art needs the potential of a global market and thus enters the art fair. Biennials and landmark exhibitions help to initiate global change in the art scene. International art fairs spread belief in contemporary art through the help of banks and royalty, from Deutsche Bank to local rulers in the Middle East.
In addition, the article quotes Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer, co-directors of Art Basel, as saying that private collections are becoming increasingly international. Collectors start by acquiring art from their own nation and eventually acquire internationally. In many countries contemporary art has become an economic project involving collectors, dealers and huge cultural districts with museums and art fairs.
For an art fair to be properly diverse, careful curation is essential. For good international fairs, this not only means that attending galleries show talented artists, but also that they show artists that live in the country the gallery is located in. As quoted in The Economist,
As Lucy Mitchell-Innes of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, a New York gallery, warns: ‘It’s a problem if four or five booths have the same artist’s work. A good international fair wants Chinese galleries to bring talented Chinese artists, not another Antony Gormley.’
International art fair hot spots
The locational hierarchy of art fairs differs from that in the auction market. For art auctions, the three most prominent cities are New York, London and Hong Kong, in that order. When talking about art fairs, Basel would come first, but what follows this lead is unclear: Miami or London, New York or Paris?
Even more notable are the art fairs currently sprouting up in Asian countries. These are creating alternate markets for art and challenging Western leadership. Adding to the hierarchical ladder are two newcomers: Hong Kong’s ART HK (Hong Kong International Art Fair) and Abu Dhabi Art, operating from the Middle East.
What art fairs mean for artists and their art
In general, art fairs can accelerate the transnational exposure of all artists represented. Art Basel is unrivalled in this category and it may be because it has always defined itself as international. The frenzied demand for new art peaked with the creation of smaller art fairs. Some of them work as satellites to the major European events, the biennials, art festivals and fairs such as Basel. These budding fairs cater to lesser known, emerging artists.
Within the art market, that an artist is “international” has become a selling point. Consequently, the local artist has become almost insignificant, while those called “national” are damned with faint praise.
Art fairs, with their aggregation of art dealers forming a one-stop shoppers’ marketplace for art, attract high-spending collectors, generate greater sales and have to some extent replaced galleries with their increasing drawing power. Still the globalisation of the art is not just about money. There are a growing number of non-profit biennials that are developing along with the market structures. As quoted in The Economist,
Massimiliano Gioni, a curator based in Milan and New York, who is overseeing the Gwangju Biennial, which opens in South Korea in September, recalls that the avant-garde was ‘built on a transnational community of kindred spirits,’ adding, ‘sometimes I long for that.’
This is an Art Radar summary of “Global frameworks – Art-fair musical chairs“, first published in The Economist.
- Antonia Carver named Art Dubai director, lends Middle Eastern art insight to fair – July 2010 – a summary of media reports from the time of Carver’s appointment
- Is globalisation of the art market slowing down? The Economist reports – June 2010 – discusses the dominance of American artists at Christie’s New York’s recent sales
- World’s top collectors and art professionals attend ART HK: a testament to fair’s growing importance - June 2010 – names the collectors in attendance
- Art industry elite meet at inaugural Abu Dhabi Art Fair – December 2009 – a brief overview of the event with images, mentions segregation of new and established galleries
- Art in storage, at fairs and sales – is it getting harder to insure? – October 2009 – this article explains why this may be the case