Scattered across the U.S. and around the world, art fairs are an essential presence in the art market, giving galleries an opportunity to present their collection of artists and artworks to a new international audience. As an emerging artist or gallerist, it is essential to participate in art fairs for both increased sales opportunities and the potential spotlight for discovery.
Knowing how to get involved – the steps you have to take and the process you have to go through – is inherently important, and it often involves a lot of guesswork for the gallerist or artist. We’ve examined and broken down guidelines to several art fairs in two of the art world’s major hubs: New York and Miami, where Miami Art Week and the Armory Show represent a crucial opportunity for artists and gallerists operating at any price point within the art market.
Miami has steadily become known as one of the biggest art hubs for top and upcoming artists alike. The annual Miami Art Week, held in early December, is made up of a wide and extensive selection of separate and very distinct art fairs. Generally comprised of several galleries or artists depending on its size, each fair is known for its unique type of art. For the fairs in Art Miami, the application guidelines are generally similar.
Potential exhibitors send in their applications, along with the images of their work, their bios, their programs and art fair history. The director of each fair reviews the application to curate the right groups of galleries for the fair. But each individual fair has its own specific components depending on the type of art they display, as well as the type of galleries that participate. Out of the fifteen to twenty or so fairs that run during Miami Art Week, three are of particular interest to emerging gallery owners, art collectors, and artists: Art Basel Miami Beach, Aqua Art Fair, and Miami River Art Fair.
Art Basel Miami Beach: An Opportunity for Up-and-Coming Galleries
Held annually in December, Art Basel Miami Beach is one of the largest and most recognizable international art fairs taking place during Miami Art Week. Featuring leading modern and contemporary art galleries from around the world, Art Basel Miami Beach showcases 200 art galleries each year, with works by over 4,000 artists including paintings, prints, sculpture, installations, performance art, and more. Depending on which fair sector you’d like to enter, works range from pieces by younger artists to more polished, museum-quality artwork.
To submit an art fair application for your gallery, you should first determine what type of applications pertains to you. Gallerists can choose to submit their art fair application for the general gallery profile or the sector-specific sections, which typically focus on a targeted corner of the art market.
The sector-specific information should include the proposed artists, project information, and suggested artworks with their supporting documents. These sectors are relegated into four categories: Edition, which represents a certain selection of the publishers of edition pieces; Survey, which presents art historical pieces prior to 2000; Nova, which focuses on recent artist production; and Positions, which scouts new artistic ability and invites galleries to present an emerging artist with a singular project.
Art Basel Miami Beach’s sector specific applications provide two important opportunities for emerging artists, though the process is certainly selective. The Nova category, for example, usually accepts just under 50 galleries, and Nova galleries are only allowed to present one or two artists during the fair.
Look to last year’s participants to determine whether or not your gallery’s catalogue may be an appropriate entry for the Nova section: Gallery 11R that is based in New York featured Mika Tajima, while 47 Canal, also in New York, featured Anicka Yi. Both artists are currently enjoying a lot of buzz, and Yi recently opened a solo show at the Guggenheim this year.
As a gallerist, you can assume that being accepted into the Nova section would require a sense of depth and precision as a potential candidate, and the intention to showcase an emerging artist who is reaching mid-career. Basel’s extensive reach and reputation may be a rather intimidating feature, but this should likewise not deter artists new to this scene. Applications are currently rolling, and Art Basel, along with many of the fairs during Miami Art Week, is open to new art and artists in their repertoire.
Aqua Art Fair: An Opportunity for Emerging Galleries in the Art Market
Aqua Art Miami is another predominant fair held during Miami Art Week in December. With its focus on contemporary art, Aqua is inclusive towards fresh new works in order to create a diverse and relaxed selection of artwork. This year’s 2017 edition will feature 47 international exhibitors showcasing their never-before-seen work at the Aqua Hotel in Miami Beach. To submit an art fair application to Aqua, submissions must be completed no later than June 30. An applying gallery must submit a list of the artists planning to exhibit at the fair, along with a total of 10 JPEG images (embedded within a PDF document) of the artists proposed to exhibit, along with brief biographical information and image details for each artist. There should also be a list of the gallery’s art fair participation history over the last three years.
The director of Aqua Art Fair, Grela Orihuela, says the fair puts a special emphasis on experimentation, and galleries have more freedom to present new and thought-provoking works. Orihuela says that the art fair allows for artists to experiment more, so the engagement with artists becomes more fluid. “Potential exhibitors send in their applications along with images of the work they propose to bring as well the artist bios, their gallery program, and art fair history,” she explained. “Then the director of each fair reviews the applications to curate the right group of galleries for the fair.” Orihuela also made Aqua art fair’s vetted nature clear.
“Aqua is inclusive and accepts a wide variety of art, but those reviewing applications look for repetition and avoid it,” she states. Orihuela mentioned that, as an emerging artist applying to Aqua, it may be best to look to collaborate with other artists; getting their names out there is an essential step. “Start-up artists can participate in group shows, team up with other artists, donate to charity auctions; anything to put themselves out there even without representing a particular gallery,” she says. “AQUA Art Miami is the perfect opportunity for emerging artists to be discovered.” As a result, Aqua art fair may be a great first step for a young gallery interested in entering an art fair and cornering this piece of the art market.
Miami River Fair: A Focus on the Individual Artist
Another notable fair during Miami Art Week is the Miami River Art Fair. Returning for its fifth year during Miami Art Week, Miami River Art Fair will be held at the Downtown Miami Convention Center. The contemporary art presented at Miami River Art Fair is creative and vastly diverse: it can only really be categorized by its shared passion and insight into the arts. The Miami River Fair highlights a variety of exhibitors: galleries, special projects, collectives and individual artists. The fair also has projects that will showcase cultural institutions and visual art research initiatives during the event, adding an informative component to the fair.
Notably, there are very limited solo booths for individual artists. This is a unique opportunity for the emerging artist to participate without gallery representation, which is usually not offered at other fairs. To apply to Miami River Art Fair, artists must digitally submit one to three proposed artworks. In addition, in the case of applying galleries, the resume for each exhibiting artist and artist statements for the proposed works should be submitted by July 15.
Volta NY: An Extensive Platform Within the Art Market
Besides the extensive, well-known Miami Art Week, artists should not discount other annual art fairs and events. New York stands as one of the most distinctive and disparate of art scenes, offering countless events, galleries, shows, and fairs. The Armory is one of these fairs, taking place in March with over 200 gallery exhibitions. Located on the Hudson River, the Armory is celebrating its 22nd edition and includes art from 36 different countries.
Unless artists apply through commercial galleries, this fair, unfortunately, does not accept applications from individual artists. However, there is an alternative option for the independent artist: Volta NY, the Armory’s affiliate, is smaller and offers a more focused atmosphere as its exhibitions spotlight one artist per exhibition program. As a result, getting a sense of an individual artist’s selection is easier to grasp than the visually overwhelming nature of larger fairs. Applications to the Armory Show are now rolling online, and the next upcoming show runs from March 8-11, 2018.
When the Armory was initially opened, it did not necessarily have a modern section or any focused sections. Volta was, as a result, created in order to complement the Armory with a section that made more of a statement. Volta seemingly beckons to emerging artists and serves as a platform for artists who are ready to take the next step and allow Volta to serve as a place of discovery.
Volta’s director, Amanda Coulson, stated that Volta has begun to ask artists to participate. Their art fair application review process is rather ambiguous, reviewing specific galleries and artists and primarily determining acceptance based on the director’s overall perception of the work.
One of the key factors in their decision-making process is the solidity of the gallery’s reputation in the art market, though Volta prioritizes the passion of the artist over the popularity of the gallery. For example, in 2016 Volta presented was curated by New York artist Derrick Adams, who chose to spotlight eight emerging and under-the-radar-artists. The ninth edition of the show in 2016 featured 100 exhibitors that had the capability to focus on their solo platforms — a rare and enticing invitation within the notoriously competitive art world.
It is difficult to find a foothold at professional, international platforms like these major art fair events. Submitting an art fair application may be one of the larger hurdles to overcome as an emerging gallery, but participants will find a wide array of possibilities presented to them simply by attending the fair and mingling collectors from across the globe.
Will you submit an art fair application this year? Let us know why – or why not – in the comments.