Art Fairs: Go In Good Stead

The art fairs you should pay attention to in the upcoming quarter.

Words: Duro Jovicic

Renowned curator Jennifer Higgie posits that, “to be an artist is to be vulnerable. It means reflecting upon yourself, your community, your culture, to see creative possibilities in unbearable circumstances, to embrace humour amid darkness. To be constantly on guard and self-critical. To resist complacency, in thought or deed. To be on your toes. To celebrate. To mourn. To dig in.” Few venues allow for the possibility of such a myriad of feelings and concepts to flourish so much as an art fair, where worldwide contemporary practice is showcased for the viewing public to respond to and participate in. Though money is a great (some argue primary) motivator for these events, to have people engage with content and come through innovative developments such as including emerging galleries and providing educational services via, for instance, art discussions, provides a well-rounded and sensory experience for all.

These upcoming global art fairs are proving to be a stimulating enterprise, working hard to cultivate relevance not merely by selling big ticket items, but also in including emerging artists and initiating discussions around the purpose and implications of art through curated dialogue. This multi-pronged approach leaves art fairs in good stead to stimulate the interest of the art-going public.

Paris Photo
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris

9 to 12 November 2023

Writer Henry Carroll makes the salient point that, “the acceleration of image culture has brainwashed us into accepting very specific and very narrow definitions of beauty that exclude almost everyone.”

Thankfully, exceptions to this are becoming more prevalent with the rise of a number of artists such as Haley Morris-Cafiero and Iiu Susiraja. Art is meant to challenge and these artists, among others, are contesting notions of what should be seen in the public sphere. Staley-Wise Gallery, New York, sums up the fair by positing “Paris Photo always attracts a sophisticated and knowledgeable base of collectors and artists interested in seeing the most discerning international perspective of historical and contemporary photography based art”.

Straddling the line between big ticket items that are sure to sell, and works that promote inclusivity to bring in people from all walks of life, is always something that art fairs need to contend with. This is very much at the forefront of the thinking of Paris Photo, with its catchcry being “we cultivate a culture of inclusion at all our events, where the very things that make each of us unique are celebrated.”

The section entitled MAIN hosts more than 130 international galleries ranging from historical to contemporary works. There’s also a BOOK section, and a CURIOSA section which looks at the trends and practices in the field of images and digital – a new development dedicated to photography in the digital age. Australian artist Hoda Afshar is featured in this year’s CURIOSA. It’s impressive seeing her thought-provoking documentary style of imagery shown internationally and not just closer to home.

A spokesperson from Staley-Wise Gallery remarks that the upcoming Paris Photo presentation, “expresses each photographer’s appreciation of a broader artistic culture expanded beyond fashion and style. Works by Howard Schatz and Rodney Smith pay homage to iconic paintings by Georges Seurat and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, respectively. Modern attitudes concerning sexual freedom are exhibited in Ellen von Unwerth’s playful images.”

An enthusing development is the inclusion of Silk Road Gallery, Tehran. It invites us to look at Iran through the lens of Iranian women – their struggles, and the rights they claim with determination and courage.

Given the recent repressive measures introduced by the government there, it’s promising to see that their message is being explored and shown to the public. Kicken, Berlin is exhibiting for the first time, with a focus on modernism in the inter-war years, featuring contemporary women artists. Bruce Silverstein, New York, presents a trip down memory lane through a range of past pioneering artists, including Man Ray, Bill Cunningham and Sarah Sense.

Art Cologne
Cologne, Germany

16 to 19 November 2023

This fair has something for everyone, spanning antiques, modern and contemporary art, and is considered one of the oldest art fairs of its kind with more than 200 stallholders now having their wares on display.

Solidarity with Ukraine is revealed with the up-and-coming talent from its capital city Kyiv. Founders of Voloshyn Gallery, Max and Julia Voloshyn, say, “we are excited about our participation in Art Cologne. We hope that it will be successful for us. Furthermore, we are open to cooperation with art institutions and galleries.” The situation is precarious for them in their homeland, with bombings a frequent occurrence. In the meantime, they are partaking in no less than seven art fairs to demonstrate what their homeland has to offer with the star in their stable being the relatable and simplified depictions of images by artist Maria Sulimenko.

It’s not only artists new to the scene who will stir interest, but tried and true titans too. It will be intriguing to see what BASTIAN, Berlin and London, brings to the fair, given the gallery has brought curated works by Damien Hirst, Emil Nolde and Joseph Beuys. As Aeneas Bastian notes, “Joseph Beuys, Emil Nolde, and Damien Hirst are artists who challenged and revolutionised the art of their time. With our fair presentation I want to emphasise the radical nature of these three artistic positions.” Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, London, will also be keenly watched, having previously presented the universally lauded works of Alex Katz and pieces by Georg Baselitz, Gilbert & George and Robert Rauschenberg.

It has been a volatile few years for art fairs in general, with economic jitters and the pervasive nature of Covid-19. Art Cologne even provided a 34% discount on booth rental for their 2021 art fair, extended to domestic and international participants. With Covid-19 firmly in the background, it will be interesting to see how Art Cologne performs in an ever-changing world order.

Paris+ Par Basil
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris

19 to 22 October 2023

This fair will be split into two main sectors, being Galeries, featuring modern and contemporary art, and Galeries Émergentes, which gathers exhibitors presenting young and emerging artists through solo exhibitions. More than 150 galleries are participating, making this a substantial meeting place to view a diversity of artistic practice.

An interesting development is the launching of Sites, with art projects scattered among four locations in the heart of Paris. This clever strategy allows people from all walks of life to interact with art regardless of whether they attend the fair. Naturally, the global big ticket art galleries will be here in force, such as global galleries Gagosian and White Cube, and London galleries Hauser & Wirth,  Pace Gallery, and David Zwirner. Last year Larry Gagosian didn’t shirk from including the who’s who of big-ticket artists showing Christo, Lucio Fontana and Ed Ruscha. Gagosian knows that art fairs, and the subsequent profile and clientele they can bring in, has potential for big business.

Art Basel Miami
Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach USA

8 to 10 December 2023

A highlight of Miami’s itinerary is not just the often eye-watering cost of its exhibitor’s works but the Conversations program it has in store for the public with explorations of concepts like hybridity, cross-pollination, and community, with nine panels gathering leading voices from Latin America, the US and Europe. Of particular interest will be the two panels that consider the complexities of the role that collecting and philanthropy plays in the art world. A discussion entitled Journeys across Diasporas: Collecting African Art traces the commitments that collectors, galleries and collecting institutions have taken in supporting grassroots African artists to developing projects internationally. Climate change will also be addressed in the discussion The Underside of Connectivity: From Data Mining to Carbon footprint. Outside of these thought-provoking discussions, it will be intriguing to see how gallerists promote and support artists directly responding to some of the environmental and sustainability questions posed by how humanity lives.

No art fair would be complete without tentpole names that are guaranteed to get people energised, conversing, and especially attending. Galerie 1900-2000, Paris, has brought in the formerly scandalous and now covetable Francis Picabia. Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, firmed up its stable by showing American modernists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Alice Trumbull Mason and Alfred Maurer.

Such artists, in their time, breathed new life into conventional genres like landscape and still life; their appeal is clearly continuing.

Photo courtesy: Zanele Muholi, Muholi V, 2023. Photo: Hayden Phipps. Courtesy: the artist, Paris+ Par Basel, Galerie Carole Kvasnevski and Muholi International Productions.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 106, October to December 2023.


Money Sullies Art: Taking a Knife to Art

Fractionalism is reported to be taking the art market by storm, but do you really want piece of that pie?

Behind the Scenes: Hard Done

The world’s mega galleries unashamedly poach artists from smaller galleries. It doesn’t seem fair to the galleries that have done the hard yards in discovering the artist and supporting their early, often lossmaking exhibitions. Or is that just the game we’re playing?

With All Due Respect: Money Mad

The idea of art as investment is not new, but is it time for the artworld to reckon with its continuing illusions of virtue?

Cultural Capital: Portrait of a Perfect Collector

From the very first purchase through to the formation of a contemporary art collection, five leading dealers tell Elizabeth Fortescue the things they believe make up the mindset of the perfect collector.