Art Fairs

In recent years, and with growing audiences, Art Fairs have become an international mecca for the art world. In a few short days, a large number of buyers, sellers, collectors, advisors, aficionados and novices gather and transact tremendous sales that set the image and value of the represented artists and galleries.

Art fair opening night previews are typically fun and exciting. They provide the first opportunity to purchase artwork before the fair opens to the general public. Opening nights are frequently gala events, supporting charities and nonprofit art organizations.

Fairs are not only for trade, but also a wonderful way for the public to enjoy art in a concentrated way, where many galleries bring in works from across the globe for display at the fair. Typically, all forms of art are exhibited: paintings, sculptures, photographs, video and “site specific” installations. Fairs are also increasingly broader, and more “commercialized” with more commerce and art forms being added to the mix. Other cultural disciplines, such as design, fashion, music, dance and food are now blending into the scene. Pop-up store, tents and temporary galleries are transforming the landscape of single-venue fairs of the past.

The growing popularity and importance of Art Basel Miami Beach, entering into its eleventh edition in 2012, has led to the perhaps the most prolific example of the transcultural format, now drawing almost twenty independent parallel fairs and a seemingly countless number of ancillary cultural events.

Some fairs have been in place for many years. For example, Art Cologne (Kölner Kunstmarkt), established in 1967 is considered the first art fair organized by and for commercial galleries to exhibit and sell Modern and Contemporary art. The fair runs for almost a week, includes galleries from over 20 countries and attracts about 60,000 visitors.

A few years later, Art Basel was established in 1970 by a group of local gallerists and is now the largest Modern and contemporary art fair in the world. This year in June, 65,000 people attended the fair. Art Basel is the parent company of “Art Basel Miami Beach” and has recently taken over a third fair in Hong Kong, to be produced for the first edition in May 2013.


Biennales are major shows of contemporary art, held every two years. They are typically international in scope and hosted by a major city. A major distinction from Art Fairs is that they are non-commercial. There is a committee-based selection of artists to show select works, but the art is not for sale. A biennale usually has an official theme, and is held throughout the host city in many venues. There are more than fifty art and design biennales around the world today, including the Venice, Kassel, Sydney and New York City’s Whitney.

History of the Venice Biennale

Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is one of the most important and prestigious cultural institutions in the world. In 2011, the Biennale recorded over 370,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition, which runs from Jun 1 through the end of November, every “odd” year. Following the introduction of the Art Exhibition, additional cultural festivals were added in the 1930s: Music, Cinema, and Theatre (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival ever organized). Subsequently, the city hosted the first International Architecture Exhibition in 1980, and added a Dance festival in 1999. The city is now filled with the festivals year-round.

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