contemporary art news

How Art Fairs and Weekends are Slowly Finding Commonality in New Approaches to Supporting the Gallery Ecosystem…

In the world of Gallery Weekends (Art Weeks, Art Weekends, etc..) there are generally two camps either the weekend is supported by a local gallery association (such as Paris, Madrid, Toronto, etc..) or the project is managed by an independent curator (or platform) such as antwerpart.be which organizes Antwerp Art Weekend– AntwerpArt functions more like a local gallery map promoting local galleries and exhibitions- there are similar examples in numerous cities. 

If your city is blessed with both an art fair and a weekend, these two entities generally work together to support each other’s endeavors but are separate entities. If your local art fair is important you will see local galleries and institutions trying to self-promote during the fair week- even if they are not connected to the fairs. In Miami for example the exhibitions, fairs, and parties in December are often referred to as Miami Art Week-, but this is more a phrase than an actual entity is not supported by Art Basel- Miami or other satellite fairs. Several fairs have created special weeks or weekends to support local galleries and institutions such as Art Rotterdam and EXPO Chicago

An excellent case study for a new collaborative model is Art Basel’s support of Art Week Tokyo, which at first might seem like strange bedfellows- a Swiss fair (with satellites in Miami, Hong Kong and Paris)- promoting Japnesse galleries and museums. But of course, Art Basel is a global brand looking to expand and promote galleries on an international scale- and Asia is HOT!!! There are several articles about Art Week Tokyo on the Art Basel’ site- but it never really explains the partnership. 

ART WEEK TOKYO

Back in 2016, Art Basel announced the Art Cities Initiative starting In Buenos Aires. At the time Art Basel was coming off the huge success of Art Basel Miami and was looking to further support and expand into the Latin American Art Market which was booming in the 2010s. After the success and positive economic impact on Miami- Art Basel was  “regularly approached by cities who were attracted by our economic impact in the cities which host our shows.”… “We realized that there are vibrant art scenes out there with committed governments and passionate players and incredible artists who are not at the center of the art world and not having the impact they deserve to have.”… “In many ways, we didn’t choose Buenos Aires—Buenos Aires chose us,” . (see Art News article

Looking back at the announcement they stated that Art Basel Cities offers Art Basel’s expertise, broad network of collectors, artworld leaders, and influencers, as well as its global reach to support cities in promoting and celebrating their unique cultural landscape.” Art Basel seemed confident that brand and access to high-profile curators and artists guaranteed success- but this seemed a bit of a colonialist approach to curating and not particularly interested in promoting local artists, galleries and institutions- but instead imposing the ART BASEL brand. 

Back in 2018, the Art Basel website even stated “Submit Your City”– so obviously the idea was Art Basel planned to move on to other cities… But the initiative never moved beyond Buenos Aires… So this collaboration with Tokyo is a continuation… of sorts- but also a re-calibration of how Art Basel can promote its brand while promoting gallery ecosystems in other parts of the globe. 

The reason I connect the failed Art Cities Initiative with Art Basel’s new support of Art Week Tokyo, is that the initiative needs to be developed locally or be gallery-driven- a one size fits all approach importing a “network of collectors, artworld leaders, and influencers” doesn’t work even with a global brand like Art Basel.

Galleries are more and more demanding that fairs and weekends do more than a once-a-year event but are pushing for at least a spring and a fall event for example – Munich’s Various Others organizing a regular September kick-off event for Munich galleries has initiated a new spring event called SPRING 24. This Spring / Fall approach to weekend programming has become more common – for example, Barcelona Gallery Weekend also traditionally holds a September festival promoting Barcelona galleries – but recently BGW has also launched the more experimental project The Collector is Present in May. 

On our weekend blog, we previously discussed this shift away from globalism and towards hyper-regionalism. The Tokyo collaboration is less about globalism and more about Art Basel, having a foothold in different regional markets. With the ongoing problems in Hong Kong, other Asian capitals might soon be looking more attractive for example Singapore- or maybe Shanghai but mostly those capitals that are more Western-facing such as Seoul and Tokyo…

So expect more initiatives in more places between weekends, fairs, and other gallery-driven initiatives not only in Asia and Europe- but also in North America- where the art market is still relatively strong and growing in not-so-obvious places like Upstate New York, Atlanta and Dallas….