Gareth Harris wrote a long story in the FT over the weekend where he talked to John Martin, the organizer of Brown’s Art Weekend, about the growing collaboration between art galleries and city governments to promote their galleries. The irony is that cities see the value in art galleries as an attraction to tourists and offices at the very moment that the economic basis for being in the high-cost center of the city is becoming untenable or, at least, less compelling:
[Martin] hopes that the Art Weekend will demonstrate to local authorities, landlords and property developers “how fundamental the art market is to Mayfair’s heritage and to its future”. Westminster Council is considering making Mayfair a Special Policy Area, which would offer a degree of financial protection for existing galleries.
London is the latest in a long line of cities determined to boost its credentials as an art capital through dedicated events. Gallery weekends, and more ambitious Art Week initiatives, have sprung up worldwide in centres such as Brussels, Stockholm, Warsaw, Vienna and Singapore. (Istanbul has not joined the circuit, after attempts to establish a gallery event coinciding with the Contemporary Istanbul fair held in November foundered.) Most are driven by the commercial sector, although museum exhibitions can also be part of the package.
How these citywide art bonanzas complement or clash with art fairs is a hot topic. “While art fairs allow galleries the chance to counter the auctions, fairs are also pulling focus away from the galleries themselves. Dealers feel the need to create events to attract more people, and a carefully marketed Gallery Week is one way of doing this,” says Charlotte Burns of The Art Newspaper.