Art Fairs, A Global Phenomenon
At the most utilitarian level, art fairs are simply trade shows. The trade is art. And like trade shows in any industry, they’re gatherings that bring sellers and potential buyers together in one place to converse, negotiate, and do deals. On a more inspirational level, art fairs are opportunities to feel the excitement of sharing time and space with other lovers of art. To see and to be seen. To get introduced to new galleries and new artists and to be stimulated. They are, at their best, broad avenues of inspiration for you to stroll down.
Today art fairs play a critical role in the world of contemporary art, accounting for millions of dollars of revenue for galleries and a must-do part of the calendar for a wide variety of collectors, curators, agents, and artists.
AS YOU ARE READING THIS, ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH 2019 IS OPENING ITS DOORS TO THE PUBLIC AT THE MIAMI BEACH CONVENTION CENTER. YESTERDAY’S VIP OPENING INDICATED A HEALTHY AND BRISK GLOBAL ART MARKET IN WHICH 269 GALLERIES OFFER BOTH PRIMARY AND SECONDARY MARKET WORKS. PRIVATE COLLECTIONS OPEN THEIR DOORS TO THE PUBLIC, ART IN PUBLIC PLACES HAS LAUNCHED A PROJECT FEATURING SEVEN NEW MONUMENTAL OUTDOOR SCULPTURES, AND THE MIAMI MUSEUMS HAVE CURATED EXHIBITIONS OF ARTISTS WHOSE WORK IS TIMELY AND SOCIALLY AND POLITICALLY RELEVANT.
IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG POST, WE ARE DELIGHTED TO VISIT WITH MEG MALLOY, PARTNER AT SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO. TO GAIN HER PERSPECTIVE ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ART FAIR IN TODAY’S GLOBAL CONTEMPORARY MARKET.
SIKKEMA JENKINS ART BASEL MIAMI SHOW CATALOG:
MEG, THANK YOU AND WELCOME BACK!
WHAT ART FAIRS DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN, AND WITH SO MANY ART FAIRS PROLIFERATING EVERY MONTH, HOW HAVE YOU NARROWED THE FIELD TO THESE CHOICES?
There are three fairs we feel are core to our business: Basel, Miami Basel and Frieze New York. This year we added Frieze London because of Kara’s Tate Turbine Project, Fons Americanus. And we also plan to do ADAA with a solo booth of Jeffrey Gibson’s work. We have done fairs all over, including Hong Kong, Bogota, Rio, Expo in Chicago and the Armory. But we don’t have a large staff, and we find that clients from all over visit the gallery. New York still is such an important art world center, and in the gallery we can give more of a sense of the breadth of what an artist does. So it is all about keeping a balance.
DO YOU FIND THAT DIFFERENT FAIR VENUES DEMAND DIFFERENT TYPES OF BOOTH IN TERMS OF WHAT CATEGORY OF ARTISTS YOU SELECT OR DO YOU MAKE A MIX OF EMERGING AND ESTABLISHED ARTISTS AT EACH FAIR?
In both Basel and Miami we do overview booths that give a real sense of the program. But you also have to think strategically about what needs exposure because of a forthcoming museum show or a particular project.
YOU HAVE REPRESENTATED A VERY STRONG SELECTION OF BLACK ARTISTS SUCH AS KARA WALKER PRIOR TO THE CURRENT WAVE OF POPULISM TO MAKE UP FOR THE OVERSIGHT. HOW DID YOU GRAVITATE TO HER WORK, FOR EXAMPLE?
I was not at the gallery when Kara joined, but it was clear to me from the moment I saw her NY debut at the Drawing Center show that hers was an original and powerful voice. The fact that she had such wicked skill and was able to combine humor and and elegance with a head-on engagement with the horror of our history and the legacy of mistreatment of people of color was just so much to take in. Her greatness was undeniable. Brent responded to the work right away and then met Kara at her studio in Providence and they just connected. And then Michael had actually studied with Kara’s dad in Atlanta.
YOU HAVE ALSO HAD THE INSIGHT TO SELECT NEW CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS SUCH AS JENNIFER PACKER WHEN THEY ARE AT THE EDGE OF LEAPING TO ANOTHER LEVEL OF ARTISTIC RECOGNITION. HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED TO HER WORK?
Michael and I each saw Jennifer’s work at her Studio Museum residency show and we were both so struck by it. She was clearly such a talented painter. She makes figurative painting feel so fresh, but she also has such a clear sense of history! Michael visited her first and then I came to the second visit. Sometimes you just know.
YOU HAVE AN IMPRESSIVE TRACK RECORD FOR PICKING ARTISTS AT AN EARLY STAGE IN THEIR CAREERS, AND BUILDING AN EXTENSIVE MARKET IN BOTH THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND MUSEUM AND INSTITUTIONAL VENUES. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT APPROACHING COLLECTORS TO INTEREST THEM IN SOMEONE NEW OR TO GAIN APPROVAL FROM A MUSEUM BOARD TO ACQUIRE AN EMERGING CONTEMPORARY ARTIST WITH A GREAT CAREER AHEAD.
Thank you! We strive to get work we think curators should see in front of them without barraging them. Sometimes it takes years. And we’re lucky to have some really loyal collectors and consultants who know our track record, and have faith in what we do, and they keep visits to us at the gallery in regular rotation. We are also privileged to have an upstairs viewing area where we can expose visitors to artists not on view downstairs.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, WE LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING ABOUT SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING EXHIBITIONS AT THE GALLERY, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. THANK YOU, MEG!