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December 2, 2009 Artists No Comments

Julie Blackmon's The Power of Now, 2008, Aqua Art Miami (Courtesy of the Artist)

Increasingly, the trend is that art fairs are the favored venue for buying art.  In London alone there are six major art fairs in which prominent art galleries from around the world exhibit and sell the works of their artists.  For the rest of the world, there is Art Dubai, Art Beijing, Art Cologne, Joburg (Johannesburg) Art Fair, The New York Armory Show, Art Toronto to list but a few.  This week Miami is hosting Art Basel Miami (December 3-6), the Red Dot Fair (now in its second year), Aqua Wynwood Miami, Scope Art Fair, Graffiti Gone Global, and Art Miami (now in its twentieth year).

A descendant of the Salon des Refusés (the precursor to an exhibition space devoted to avant-garde representation, at a time when avant-garde had become synonymous with the Impressionists), art fairs are now so mainstream, they are the antithesis to the Bohemians of the “Réfusés”.  Interpreted in this way, they, in themselves, have become a sort of performance/installation artwork in which they emulate the upscale, mega-structures of today’s one-stop shopping experience where international food, babysitting services, shopping advice (in the form of gallerists, curated shows, lectures), international trends, even movies (think of the video presentations) are all available under one roof.

Given the globalization of the art market and the emergence of a younger, more affluent-and-more-self-indulgent-than-their-predecessors-generation of collectors attuned with the latest in everything, it makes sense that collectors should gravitate towards large exhibition halls which offer a panoply of top-notch art galleries featuring emerging, mid-career, and more established artists.  The up-side is big:  In a world where we have become accustomed to looking things up with a tap of our finger, the art fair offers the same immediate “global” experience of the internet.  You can walk from the art scene of Africa to the art scene of Berlin to the art scene of Australia, much in the same way you can browse with your mouse.  You can discuss with remarkably well-informed gallerists, go to lectures, compare and learn about today’s various art movements… For the artist, too, there is the positive outcome of greater exposure.

Luis Valenzuela's Eco-Totem (designed for Red Dot Miami), 2009 (Red Dot Art Fair)

The downside? I suppose the only one I can think of is that an art fair is a temporary installation (here today, gone tomorrow until it is re-installed in another city).  This gives the buyer a certain sense of urgency, a feeling that if I don’t get it today, it won’t be here tomorrow which could lead to impulse buying.  While there is nothing wrong with this, I do remember reading one well-known art critic (so well-known I can’t remember his name, but seriously, he was well-known) saying that a collector should never buy on sight.  The critic’s reasoning?  If an artwork speaks to you, it will continue to do so the next day and the week after that.  If it stops speaking to you after a few hours or a few days later, then whatever it had to say couldn’t have been very important.

So keep this in mind, but by all means go.  No where else will you see so much good art from so many places under one roof or, in the case of Miami, many roofs but all within close proximity of one another.  It is important and informative to see the work of emerging artists placed next to the work of established artists. Also, fairs like Aqua Wynwood give young galleries with emerging artists a chance to get known by a wider public.  Good serious galleries, like good serious art, need all the exposure they can get. The general public, too, needs to be exposed.  In a hurried world where art is not a priority for most, art fairs offer unparalleled exposure – for the artwork, the artist, the art gallery, and the collector – whether they be emerging or established.


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