Hundreds of gallery booths and thousands of artworks conveniently packed under one roof, make art fairs must-visit events where collectors can discover new artists, explore the latest art trends and find the next addition to their growing art collection. Currently, there are over 60 international art fairs that offer everything a collector can desire. From affordable art pieces by up-and-coming artists to in-demand works created by some of the hottest artists of today.
The globalization of the art market and ever-decreasing travel costs have made art fairs more accessible than ever. But so many fairs that take place every year can overwhelm even the most experienced art buyers. If you are a collector getting ready to attend your next (or maybe even your first) art fair, here are a few tricks you can use to make the most of it.
Create Your Own Art Fair Calendar
Like any other meaningful art collecting endeavor, visiting an art fair also requires a lot of planning ahead. To make the most of what the event has to offer, it’s best to take some time at the beginning of the year and make your own art fair calendar. Browse through art fairs on the Internet and select the ones that fit into your timetable. Add them to your calendar and set a reminder a few days before each fair.
When the reminder goes off, visit the official website and create a roadmap for the actual event. Most websites offer a ton of information about participating artists and galleries accompanied by a detailed map displaying the arrangement of the booths. Download the map and mark the galleries you really want to see. It will help you find your way around the site when you finally enter the fair.
Purchase Online Tickets
While you are browsing the art fair’s website, visit the tickets sector and buy your tickets in advance. It will save you time and money. While tickets for the majority of art fairs are available both online and at the show venue, most art fairs offer a discount for online purchases.
Apart from regular art fair tickets, many art fairs offer VIP passes that provide better access and an entry to the vernissage (the VIP opening taking place one day before the public opening.) That means that you can preview the works before everyone else and even purchase the ones you want before the official opening. Since the majority of pieces are sold within the first few hours from the beginning, getting that early access can mean the difference between buying the piece you want and going home empty-handed. That’s why investing in a VIP ticket is definitely something to consider.
Make a List of Your Favorite Artworks on the Go
Careful planning will help you find your way around the fair, but nothing can prepare you for the excitement you’ll feel when you get inside and find yourself surrounded by thousands of artworks fighting for your attention. Though some art pieces will entice you to make a purchase right away, it’s always better to approach your acquisitions with a plan. First, take a walk around the art fairground floor and make sure to visit all the booths. Pull out your map for easier orientation and make sure to mark the items you like on the map. Then, go over your list and narrow your selection down to fewer than 20 booths that you want to revisit and make your inquiries.
Visit the Emerging Artists Section
Maybe you already have your mindset on buying artwork from a household name, but sometimes the finest gems of the art world can be found in the sector dedicated to promising new artists. Many art fairs have a special space reserved for young galleries and emerging artists only. There, you can discover the next fine art superstar and snatch their work early on, before they reach those multi-million dollar price tags.
Make an Informed Decision
Communication is the key to making the right decision, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The booth staff will be more than happy to provide insights about the artworks they are selling. It is their job after all! The questions you ask will depend on the artwork you want, but regardless of the type of art you are planning to buy, here are a few things you should definitely discuss with the gallery personnel.
A little bit about the artist — It’s always good to ask a few questions about the creator of the desired art piece. Enquire about the artist’s previous exhibitions and sales. Were his or her artworks exhibited in a relevant art venue? Are they a part of any major private or public art collection? The answers will provide a glimpse into the artist’s status in today’s art market.
The storage requirements — Many artworks have to be handled a certain way and stored in a special environment to prevent damage and decay, especially if the artist is using new and unusual techniques and materials. Ask if there is anything that will prevent the artwork from passing the test of time and what are the steps you need to take to make sure it lasts a lifetime.
Restoration and repair — Also, make sure to inquire about services of restoration and repair, if the artwork gets damaged by accident. When it comes to buying art, you’ll want to have all the bases covered.
Remember, inquiring is not committing to a purchase. It’s a way of gathering information before you make up your mind. Inquiring can be an excellent way to learn more about an artist or a gallery, even if you change your mind about buying the artwork afterward. Galleries tend to bring their best personnel to art fairs and collectors like you are their top priority. So they will be more than happy to share their extensive knowledge with you.
Negotiate the Price of Art
More often than not, art fair prices are subject to negotiation. Most galleries have permission to lower their prices up to a point, and will likely do so when they come across a serious buyer. The later days of the fair provide more opportunities for bargaining since many galleries want to sell off their remaining pieces to avoid costs of shipping them back. However, keep in mind that some prices are fixed, and haggling over them won’t get you the discount you seek — it will just make you look annoying. That particularly goes for artworks that are already quite affordable. So as far as discounts are concerned it’s always good to ask, but don’t insist.
Think of It as a Learning Experience
Art fairs offer plenty of educational programs running simultaneously with the fair (from art talks and lectures to guided tours and collectors dinners) that can help you learn more about today’s art market and future trends. Even a trip to the buffet can turn out to be a valuable learning experience since it will give you the opportunity to meet numerous art professionals including gallery representatives, art dealers, artists, curators, art experts and fellow art collectors.
To many collectors, art fairs seem crowded and confusing, but these tips will definitely help you benefit the most out of the experience. So get your tickets, pack your bags and don’t be afraid to explore the best art fairs have to offer.