Words: Duro Jovicic
Continued globalisation and the push towards economics of scale, has ushered in a resurgence of global art fairs, bringing a breadth of buying opportunities, and certain gallerists and key artists, to the fore.
The platitude “size matters” features significantly here, with air fairs growing from approximately 55 in the year 2000 to estimates between 220 to 300 nowadays. Factors such as Covid, calls for fairer representation, and recent global disruptions (the Ukraine/Russia war to name but one), have seen art fairs adapt into new and varied iterations. Though if recent history, and what’s in store for the upcoming months, are anything to go by, they are here to stay and are likely to prosper.
MARS Gallery, Melbourne founder Andy Dinan sums up the merits of international exposure at art fairs saying “It is a deal-changer for your artists. Suddenly you are talking with international curators who have travelled to see the fair, scouting for new talent.”
“Of course, it is a lot closer for them to get to the fairs around Europe than us! I personally enjoy that instead of the work being judged in a small field, you are competing in the largest art arena possible, and collectors are looking at global trends and big vision, not just with local issues and comparing often parochial statements.”
Somerset House, London
11 to 14 May 2023
With more than 110 galleries participating from the world over, this fair is the one to bookmark if you have even a passing interest in anything photography related. Displayed in the heritage-listed Somerset House, it offers a curated mix of vintage and contemporary photography to appeal to a wide cross section of people. Price points also cater to a broad variety of budgets, with works generally ranging from £250 to £100,000.
In the photographic medium, it appears that it is mainly MARS Gallery flying the flag for Australia internationally, with Dinan noting “I have not done this Photo London Fair before and am very curious to see the calibre of photography presented from galleries around the world and to see how MARS Gallery artists stand up to the fierce competition. I believe that Atong Atem, Nasim Nasr and Scotty So are potentially important global voices, and what they are saying will resonate internationally with both institutions and collectors. Of course, Atong will show at the Tate Modern in July in a group show on African Contemporary photography curated by Osei Bonsu, the Senior Curator of International Art at the Tate Modern, so I feel this is the perfect time to present her work in London.”
It’s no surprise that Dinan has included works by Atem – an artist on the rise, having won last year’s inaugural La Prairie Art Award. Atem’s oeuvre showcases herself and her Sudanese community, and recontextualises how they are perceived. Often her pieces are a vivid assault on the senses and create a new and self-told narrative.
Frieze New York
The Shed, New York
17 to 21 May 2023
New York City, having long been one of the main powerhouses in the art game, has hosted Frieze since 2012. A sage move, given that it is not unusual during the art auction season to see pieces go for nine digits, sometimes even ten. Frieze offers 65 major galleries the chance to showcase up and coming talent including some of art history’s most important figures. In Frieze 2022, New York gallery David Zwirner sold out its entire booth of new sculptures by Carol Dove, with prices from $200,000–$600,000 USD. The internationally renowned Thaddaeus Ropac had works by titans such as Georg Baselitz and Alex Katz.
The Baselitz piece – displaying two yellow-toned skeletal figures upside down – sold for $1,300,000 USD, whilst a work by Katz sold for $700,000 USD. At the top tier, where the stakes are high, as are the subsequent costs, expeditious trade is the order of the day. This is further demonstrated by Perrotin gallery, generating a total of $3 million USD in sales by the end of the first day of Frieze 2022.
Liste Art Fair Basel
12 to 18 June 2023
Like other art fairs, Liste, needing to be agile in its response to recent changing times and shifts in ability for people locally and internationally to view works, launched Liste Showtime Online in 2020 as a digital art fair. It allowed a global overview of new voices in contemporary art without requiring a physical presence – this isn’t unique to Liste, with many art fairs realising in recent years that to remain relevant and connect to the viewing public and collectors alike, they would need to offer a more holistic package to market the works on show. This has also seen Liste develop another digital format called Liste Expedition, a digital research forum and artist index. People don’t just buy the artwork, they buy into the story and journey behind it.
Another reassuring development expressed by Liste director Joanna Kamm is that “… we have also invited curator Sarah Johanna Theurer from Haus der Kunst, Munich, to curate an exhibition on the topic of sustainability, which will be on view at the fair.”
With 88 galleries from 35 countries participating, and approximately 115 artists, there will be a lot to discover during this fair.
13 to 18 June 2023
With the excitement over NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and AI (artificial intelligence) as supposed new frontiers of artistic expression – even pop culture celebrity Paris Hilton has a limited edition NFT, concerns have been voiced over a potential usurping of traditional forms of art media. Recently, Sydney-based artificial intelligence art studio Absolutely Al, with the mission statement ‘Who is the better artist, man or machine? Let’s find out’, won a photography award for a computer-generated image. This begs the question of the impact of AI on creative industries.
In the canon of artistic practise, it was not so long ago that concerns over photography were voiced, causing controversy and heated debate. With this, at least, it appears there’s enough room for all players, and with the sustained popularity of the photographic medium it is certainly not abating any time soon.
Photo Basel is Switzerland’s first and only international art fair dedicated to photography-based art. Photo Basel is boutique by nature (41 galleries participated in 2022) with the focus being on quality. One of the highlights for 2023, as noted by artistic director Alessa Widmer is the collaboration with WBB Galerie (Zurich), resulting in the exhibition Pure Photography: 20th Century Floral Masterworks featuring rare vintage and contemporary photographs by significant American photographers of the West Coast Movement such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
Art Basel Switzerland
15 to 18 June 2023
Featuring 285 leading galleries, Art Basel is indeed a powerhouse in the canon of global art fairs. Fairs of this size offer much for viewers to immerse themselves in, including such sections such as Film and Conversations, a program that features prominent members of the international artworld including artists, curators, collectors and critics – which incidentally is free and open to the public.
Highlights are released in the lead-up to the fair, creating a commotion and buzz that few can match. One previous noteworthy inclusion was a set of 21 drawings by Gerhard Richter, Untitled (Drawings for SDI), shown by Sies + Hoke Galerie. The title refers to the former US president Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defence Initiative, a programme designed to shoot down nuclear missiles.
OpenField Arts Festival
22 to 26 June 2023
This is a new and immersive contemporary festival, held in the NSW south coast town of Berry, showcasing art in and around the town in unique non-museum venues, including halls, community spaces and natural reserves. The varying locations is a deliberate attempt at making art accessible to all, aided by being predominantly for free. Festival co-director and renowned Australian musician Lenka Kripac sees the pandemic years as playing a part in the impetus to launch OpenField, saying there was a feeling of disconnection from the community and a longing for fun events to recommence. Kripac further expresses that “OpenField strive to be representative of diversity, equality and accessibility. We are providing a platform to showcase emerging talent in the region as well as mid-career artists who have never shown their work locally. We have excellent local First Nations artists showing work in the program and we are also forging collaborations between local groups from the older generations with visiting contemporary artists.”
Australia & International
Renaissance Tours will host 80 tours around Australia and the world in the fields of art, music, opera and ballet. The Fine Arts programme is presented in partnership with the Art Gallery Society of NSW. Such events ought not be shirked at. The advantage of a guided tour is having access to what you commonly don’t. When I saw The Last Supper in Milan as part of a guided tour it proved to be a revelation. Knowing that for three years, the wall it was painted on housed servicemen and their horses as a stable, and they played games throwing rocks at the disciples’ heads…such insights are priceless.
Some of the tours are New Zealand Now: Contemporary Art and Design; William Morris in Adelaide; Eternal Japan: Classic to Contemporary and Florence Art Tour. These, if you are looking to enrich your knowledge of the arts and hand the groundwork to the experts, are not to be missed.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns
13 to 16 July 2023
The vision of this art fair is simple: to provide platforms for cultural exchange and economic opportunity for Queensland Indigenous artists. The fair has been operating since 2009, having historically engaged with thousands of Indigenous artists. Director Francoise Lane, has styled this year’s theme titled Weaving our Future: Claiming our Sovereignty.
Jack Wilkie-Jans, marketing and communications manager, shares that “our programme continues to grow and shift each year, in response to the needs and visions of artists and our audiences. The Art Fair and Art Market will be back; this we can assure ahead of our Programme Launch. This will give audiences an in-depth view of some of the most innovative works of fine art from Queensland’s Indigenous artists of the time. We are also celebrating 10 years of the annual CIAF Fashion Performance in 2023!”
Photo courtesy: Huang Yong Ping, presented by kamel mennour at Art Basel, 2022.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 104, April to June 2023.