Studio 21 returned last week from Art Wynwood, an art fair in Miami. We exhibited six artists and sold pieces by Alex Livingston, David Sorensen and Jean-Sebastien Denis. In November, we were in Chicago at a fair called SOFA and in October it was Art Toronto. Attending art fairs is a way to find new clients and show the work of our artists to a broader audience. It’s a big undertaking – we select the artists who we think will have a good reception; pack their work for shipment; arrange transport to and from the fair (sometimes dealing with customs, brokers, etc.); install the booth in time for Opening night; staff the event for four, 8 to 10 hour days; deliver to purchasers; take down and ship home unsold work. We are usually exhausted when we get back to Halifax! However, the experience is exciting. We can meet over 20,000 people, depending on the Fair. Although we didn’t get any beach time in Miami, we dined outside in lovely warm evenings while the latest blizzard raged in Nova Scotia.
Until very recently, if an artist wanted to move into a new geographical market, she would look for a gallery to represent her in that market. One artist would work towards having several galleries nationally or internationally and would “feed” them regularly with new work. The rise of art fairs, and of online marketing, has made a big difference. Through these opportunities, a single gallery can market an artist’s work globally. The old regionally exclusive arrangements made between artist and gallery – such as a gallery as the exclusive representative of an artist in Nova Scotia but not elsewhere- may soon go by the wayside.
Art Fairs are now the prime and booming environment for business in international contemporary fine art. They now take place by the hundreds, across the globe. The participant exhibitors are commercial galleries. Art Toronto has approximately 120 galleries; one of the most famous European fairs, Art Basel, has 285. Fairs may be organized based on a theme – either a medium (paper for example), or the experience of the gallery in the marketplace, or the category of artists (emerging, mature), or the period of the artwork (contemporary, i.e. current; modern, i.e. 20th century; historic). Fair entrance may be selective based on the quality of the work and the track record of the gallery.
Studio 21 plans to continue to exhibit artists to Canadian and international art fairs. We regard it as important to introduce the work of young, emerging artists, as well as exposing longstanding artists to new opportunities. We will let you know our results at the next one – Papier 2017 in Montreal at the end of April.