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Arts and entertainment

How to navigate an art fair

July 9, 2018

Jeremy Larner is founder/president of JKL Worldwide Jeremy Larner is founder/president of JKL Worldwide


By Jeremy Larner

Art fairs are a crucial part of the art market in the 21st century. They take place on each continent throughout the year and continuously attract a discerning and moneyed clientele.

Galleries from all over the world descend on these gatherings showing their strongest and most commercial material.

In addition to the world’s most sought-after galleries, luxury brands also sponsor art fairs, often hosting special events and providing VIPs with accommodations and perks.

For someone new to collecting, such affairs can be intimidating.

However, this guide will outline a few tips for frequenting these luxurious and prestigious events.

Art Basel
Perhaps the premier fair to occur annually, Art Basel has a special place among the art world elite.

Each June, the world’s foremost galleries and collectors congregate in Basel, Switzerland for the week-long event.

Started in the 1970s by gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner and Balz Hilt, the fair has grown to a global event that attracts more than 290 top galleries and close to a 100,000 visitors.

Throughout the week, visitors are treated to the work of more than 4,000 artists, curated by the most esteemed experts in the field.

Art Basel exhibit. Image credit: Shutterstock An exhibit at Switzerland's Art Basel show in Basel. Image credit: Shutterstock

While in Basel, be sure to explore the satellite activities that coincide with the fair.

Basel also plays host to several restaurants and bars that are the epitome of luxury.

Enjoy a cocktail at the esteemed Hotel Les Trois Rois nestled on a charming corner of the Rhine. For dinner, savor a meal at Cheval Blanc and Chez Donati to experience the culinary delights that Basel has to offer.

An acronym for Fiore Internationale d’Art Contemporain, FIAC is the largest and most popular art fair in France.

Taking place in the fall each year, the fair calls as home the perpetually stunning and Karl Lagerfeld- approved Grand Palais in Paris.

Built at the turn of the 20th century, this extraordinary building located in the Eighth Arrondissement is a preeminent example of classic Beaux-Arts architecture.

Under the palatial and astounding glass ceiling, roughly 200 leading galleries from around the world display their finest contemporary art.

The fair also plays host to special projects and events that change with each year.

The Fiore Internationale d’Art Contemporain show in France. Image credit: Shutterstock The Fiore Internationale d’Art Contemporain show at Paris' Grand Palais. Image credit: Shutterstock

Many of France’s most luxurious brands partner with the prestigious fair – Van Cleef & Arpels and Guerlain, respectively – and host VIP events and soirees surrounding the fair.

Be sure to take in all the city has to offer and pay a visit to the Centre Pompidou and other museums in the city as they put on impressive exhibitions that run concurrent with the fair.

ADAA/The Armory Show
The ADAA or Art Dealers Association of America organizes The Art Show annually in February.

This thoughtfully curated and highly refined fair is host to the most prestigious galleries in the United States.

Housed in the stunning Park Avenue Armory located in New York’s historic Upper East Side, this fair is an elegant affair that attracts the most discerning collectors and visitors.

Each year the fair opens with a spectacular gala that serves to benefit The Henry Street Settlement, a 125-year-old organization that provides social service, art and healthcare programs to New Yorkers in need.

Most years The Art Show runs concurrently with another New York stalwart, The Armory Show.

The Armory Show in New York. Image credit: Shutterstock The Armory Show in New York. Image credit: Shutterstock

Started in 1913, the fair introduced the U.S. to the European avant garde.

Displaying the work of artists such as Duchamp, Picasso, Gauguin, and Manet, the inaugural exhibition scandalized American viewers.

Though it has not generated the same level of controversy since that first iteration, The Armory Show plays an important role in setting the tastes and tone for the American contemporary art market.

Jeremy Larner is founder/president of New York-based fine art consultancy, where he conducts art procurement and investment strategies for clients. Reach him at