Friday, August 12, 2011

The more things change

There’s a lot of chat internationally about how art fairs are starting to dominate the primary market and transforming the traditional fixed location dealer gallery model. Globally dealers are finding that a significant amount of their annual income now comes directly from art fairs and not the daily grind of opening the shop. Is that true in NZ?

Our own art fair, the one in Auckland, has just finished and by all accounts sales went well and visitors certainly seemed to be having a good time. You'd have to say though most of the work was certainly not up there on the dollar stakes. No big money Hammonds, Cottons or McCahons. If you wanted to see blue chip you had to get over to Webb’s who were outing their next auction. The art fair was more like taking a stroll around the galleries on a typical Saturday morning, but with no driving (that was good). So, lots of walk-bys, a few things that demanded a second look and lots of talk. More a community building exercise than record breaking or heart-stopping.

At global art fairs the collectors come from all over to see works they would usually not be able to access at home. And they are reeled in like fish, free tickets, accommodation and tickets to vernissages that go for the lavish way beyond the AAF’s filled rolls and homely wine (a wee bit too picnic-on-the-beach for $125 a head).

Our art fair seems to be more about giving the punters a bit of fun with a nicely varied and unthreatening art experience. As a way to get people interested in art it’s a huge success. As director Jennifer Buckley says, it’s "like a Big Day Out for art lovers with opportunities to engage one to one with artists, curators and gallery owners." A threat to the standard dealer gallery model? Unlikely.

Image: Art Fair punter with good eye