Navigating Art Fairs Insider Survival Tips

It’s art fair time! The Fall is when the pace of art picks up and art fairs abound.

Running since 2000, Art Toronto, the city’s major art fair (October 26th - 29th 2018 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre) is an opportunity to take in art from local and international galleries. Like other well-known international art fairs such as Art Basel or the Frieze fairs, these events can feel overwhelming and elitist to the uninitiated. If you’re an average person who loves art but doesn’t have the deep pockets to buy six-figure art, you might wonder what the point is of bothering with Art Toronto?

But there you’d be mistaken.

Accredited fine art and antique appraiser and consultant Sharon Berlin of Cartouche has many opportunities to visit art fairs and collections locally and internationally. When she makes her trips she always keeps a few things in mind:

  1. Go with an open mind

    Art fairs can be great places to be introduced to lots of new artwork and artists that you may not have been familiar with before. There will always be some big names that will draw the crowds, but some of the most exciting moments when visiting an art fair are when you come across something totally new—a style that you’ve never seen before or an artist you haven’t heard of yet. Its so much fun to learn about and discover new art. There’s no need to be an art whiz to attend an art fair, don’t worry about knowing who’s who or what’s what, let yourself explore and discover what there is to see!

  2. Forget the map

    There are always tons of kiosks and booths to visit it can feel overwhelming to try to stop at every one. Starting in one corner and making your way through the space will allow you to stop off at booths that catch your eye while letting you make your way through the show. Letting yourself wander will also ensure you don’t get too over-saturated, taking in art without feeling like you’re on a strict path. Another good tip is to arrive earlier in the day; it’s always nice to take your time looking through the fair before the midday crowds show up. If you allot yourself 2-3 hours to take everything in, you can wander at your leisure and stop to look and talk to any gallerists or artists that catch your eye.

  3. Take advantage of the extras

    Art Fairs always have tons of great programming and fun events that take place around the main event. There are satellite events that are scheduled at the same time as Art Toronto, such as the book sale that happens on the main floor of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as well as other contemporary art events. Some private tours are for special collectors and gallerists, but there are plenty of great talks and tours that are open to the public and are fun ways to learn about some of the art and artists on offer at the fair. Sometimes there are even artist performance interventions at the fair, which are exciting to take in while you wander through the booths.

  4. Buying is not required

    Would you go to a museum expecting to buy anything? Even though most items shown are for sale, frame your visit as you would a trip to an art institution. Some of the things you’ll see are truly museum quality. At each booth there is at least one person who will be happy to answer your questions, at length. They have no idea if you’re a buyer, and most will be far too polite to say, “So, are you going to buy it?” Take this as an opportunity to learn without feeling pressure to buy.

Art Fairs have plenty to offer and are exciting places to get a great cross section of the fascinating artwork that’s being produced locally and abroad. Art fairs have something to offer art lovers at any level. Even if you aren’t interested in making a big ticket art purchase there are plenty of fun experiences to be had!