Of all the changes the art market boom brought about, the importance of art fairs may turn out to be the biggest. Creating an active and visible Agora for art, the fairs influenced the type of work created but also the nature of the art buying act. One prevailing assumptions has been that a correction in the market or a severe recession, would impact the fairs first. Jerry Saltz went as far as to predict the demise of at least one major fair.
But what if the art market has moved irrevocably in a new direction? The collecting base is deeper and more geographically dispersed. Buyers rely more on their own taste and knowledge than the expertise of dealers and they don’t necessarily only want to buy art in New York. Could it be that dealers might develop a different business model where a presence at an art fair is more important that gallery space?
The first hints of that possibility come from Carol Vogel’s Friday column. In response to the cancellation of an Asian Art fair, she reports this:
Sanford L. Smith, another show organizer, fired off an e-mail message to about 450 exhibitors, dealers, clients and charities that are often the beneficiaries of these events, saying that all of his shows — the Outsider Art Fair this month, Works on Paper in February and the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair in April — will proceed as planned.
“Dozens of our exhibitors as well as nonexhibiting dealers tell us that there is very little traffic in their galleries,” Mr. Smith wrote. “Private dealers without open spaces see scarcely any clients. If you are a dealer and this is what you are experiencing, it’s going to be more important than ever to participate in and to attend fairs.”
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Smith added: “Sure it’s tough out there for dealers, but now is the time for collectors to be looking to buy because there are a lot of values around. And at least at the shows you’ll see four, five, even six thousand people and have a chance to make new connections.”
Inside Art (The New York Times)