Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sunday School

Me: What did you learn in Sunday School today?

Anderson: All about David and Goliath.

Me: Tell me about it.

Anderson: Well... you see.. the Hebrews and the Philippines were at war...

Here comes ABMB

Over the 12 years that this blog has been active, I've discussed many times the experiences of doing an art fair - starting with my first one with the former Fraser Gallery about a decade ago, when "artfairing" was all fresh and new.

Soon we'll be heading to SOFA Chicago, as that formerly 3-D only art fair opens its walls to 2-D work. Right after that we'll head South to Miami for Context Art Miami for our yearly dance at ABMB.

Art Basel Miami Beach takes place December 3-6, 2015, although ABMB itself has become such a magnet for art symbiots of all kinds that the primus inter pares fair now encompasses more than 200 leading art galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa which will exhibit artworks by over 2,000 artists at the "real" ABMB.

And as I've noted a million times before here are now well over two dozen satellite art fairs all revolving around ABMB, and quite a few DC area art galleries and private dealers will be represented in several of these fairs.

It's been a long time since the now defused Fusebox Gallery became the first DC area art gallery to venture to the Miami area in 2003; as I recall to show Fusebox artists at The Art Positions section -- those air-conditioned shipping containers right on the beach that sometimes had disastrous encounters with the beach and the ocean.

The more I talk art fairs to gallerists and art dealers the more that it makes sense why a good gallery should do at least 3-4 art fairs a year. Many Mid Atlantic area gallerists note that they could not exist if it wasn't for the art fairs.

"About 75% of my yearly sales now come from the three art fairs that I do each year," related to me an Old City Philly gallerist. "Next year I am going to apply to double that number."

I hear a similar story from DC area gallerists, some of which are now even exploring art fairs in Europe and Latin America, as the sales continue to climb more and more at the fairs, and the appetite for the European Euro is discovered.

Galleries such as Connersmith, Morton Fine Art, Adah Rose and others all work very hard and do fairs all over -  the fact that they keep coming back to fairs is indicative of the success of their attendance to the fair; it costs a truckload of money to do an art fair... in other words, since most art galleries are run on a very tight budget, if you blow a couple of fairs in a row, you may be out of business, or worse, forever disinclined to do another fair (instead of re-examining the gallery's approach to the art fair, as art fairs are not "art shows" in the sense that a gallery puts a show in their spaces).

This is a bitter lesson that many DC galleries have also learned... the ones which used to do art fairs, but no longer do them.

Moral of the story: If you are a gallerist, you owe it to your gallery and to your artists to start thinking of a smart exhibition program approach to the art fair and applying to the high quality art fairs - not the bad ones.... therein lays the key.

This doesn't mean that the "new" art model is just art fairs; far from it. There are such models, and several private art dealers do great in getting into art fairs and selling loads of work.

But they do not contribute to their city's cultural life. And that's OK... a city's cultural tapestry has many members and parts, including private art dealers.

However, an art gallery, a good art gallery anyway, is not just an art store, but an integral and key part of the cultural tapestry of a city. As my good friend John Pancake (former Arts Editor of the WaPo when the WaPo had Arts Editors) once told me, "a heroic venture."

And so the true and valid model for a good and reputable art gallery seems to be a mixture of a brick and mortar establishment (or in the new paradigm: a former brick and mortar gallery which has closed shop and is now just an online venture that does art fairs), a substantial and organized and updated web and digital presence, and a healthy assortment of art fairs.

Gallerists: Start applying now for 2016 - Alas many 2016 deadlines have already passed! Or stop complaining about being unable to sell artwork in your local market.