Art fairs are trade exhibitions for commercial dealers and galleries to showcase specifically to collectors, but also to the public, the art and artists they represent

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  • TateShots: Frieze Art Fair 2011
  • TateShots: Curating & Collecting at Frieze 2012

The rise of the art fair is a phenomenon of recent years. Until the millennia, art fairs were small, industry-only events, showcasing artists represented by commercial galleries to a select number of international collectors. Today there are more than 200 Art fairs world wide and they have evolved into big, bold glamorous art happenings offering special VIP openings, talks programmes, commissioned artist projects, events and parties. Commercial galleries pay a sizeable fee for their booths and the leading art fairs operate a strict selection policy.

In today’s fast moving global art market it can be a challenge for public museums to buy art for their collections. Collection building tends to be a protracted process involving lengthy discussion between curators and acquisition committees. Some museums have solved this problem by establishing funds (like the Tate’s Outset Contemporary Art Fund) that enable them to buy work at art fairs like any other collector.

The advantages of these new art fairs is that they enable the public to see an extraordinary range and diversity of international art all in one place as well as generating considerable revenue for the art market. Critics of art fairs argue that the art has become increasingly commercial in order to supply the insatiable demand of the super-rich and cite the corrupting influence the promise of rapid wealth and exposure has on an artist’s development and practice.

A peek inside an art fair…

In 2011 TateShots visited Frieze Art Fair in London and interviewed artists exhibiting new work, curators, collectors and the public about their experience of Frieze and how they see its place in the art scene.