The art of the perfect fit

DRAW Recommends: ‘The Art Fair Story; a rollercoaster ride’ Melanie Gerlis (2021) ‘Hot Topics in the Art World’ Lund Humphries

Posted by sandy in News · October 2023

As Frieze, and the buzz of autumn in London descends upon the art industry, seasoned veterans and first time gallery assistants alike will find a wry smile of recognition somewhere in Melanie Gerlis’ ‘The Art Fair Story’. An overview from Robert Zwirner’s take on a trade show to the jam packed schedule of fairs today, Gerlis guides us through the journey with her usual verve, insider interviews and discerning insight. As well as data driven reporting (where the data is available) there is a real understanding of the reality of the art fairs – the immense energy that comes from bringing gallerists of all kinds together, but also quite how tiring this can be; after all some galleries exhibit at over 20 fairs a year. Gerlis beautifully demonstrates the tension between the expense of art fairs, in time, money and energy, against their selling potential, and more importantly, the prestige and reputational benefits brought by exhibiting. Many galleries will exhibit at leading fairs as a loss leading exercise, purely to see and be seen.

This is a ‘rollercoaster ride’ and fast changing industry. Gerlis discusses fairs that failed, or performed so badly they had to drastically change tack, and spends time analysing Masterpiece, which by the time of printing (2021) no longer existed. Gerlis captures something of what makes art fairs so special in her analysis of the post lockdown fair landscape – that the fairs have returned and remain popular and profitable is testament to their unique place in the industry eco-system – and more importantly the resilience of those who make them happen. Covid may have forced a change in pace, and gallerists now are more discriminating at which fairs they exhibit to avoid some of this exhaustion of funds and energy, but art fairs are a mainstay of the industry, and look likely to remain so for a long time to come.

‘Hot Topics in the Art World’ is a series by Lund Humphries that provides expert insight into a wide variety of aspects of the industry. Fast paced and to the point, this is an excellent way for any to familiarise yourself with the realities of the industry that surrounds the art itself, as well as giving a giving the general reader a clearer understanding of what the industry actually entails.

Notes from DRAW · 11.10.2023

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