Art fairs go full Robin Hood
In April, David Zwirner mentioned during a panel in Berlin that perhaps more prosperous galleries—like, um, David Zwirner
—should subsidize struggling smaller galleries by paying more for fair booths.
“A little bit like a tax,” he told the crowd during the panel, which was convened by the New York Times. “You make a little more money, and you get taxed a little bit.”
’s Marc Glimcher and Independent Art Fair founder Elizabeth Dee were in the crowd, and when asked if they would get behind such an idea, they offered their immediate support.
Not long after, fair directors have decided to experiment with sliding booth prices. On September 3rd, Art Basel announced
that, starting in 2019, its fairs would begin to switch to a sliding scale, with the transition completed at Art Basel in Hong Kong in 2020. For the Swiss edition, the changes enacted will bring the price down to CHF 760 ($778) per square meter for a smaller booth of 25 square meters (269 square feet), versus CHF 905 ($927) per square meter for one of the fair’s larger booths of 124 square meters (1,335 square feet) starting next year. Frieze followed suit, announcing
the next day that it would adjust prices at its new Los Angeles fair: The 215-foot booths will cost $38.50 per square foot, while 861-foot booths will go for $88.50 per square foot.
On September 6th, the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC)—the Parisian fair that takes place in mid-October—announced that it, too, would lower the price of smaller booths and raise the price of larger booths, lowering small booth prices by 5%, to €550 per square meter, and increasing larger booth prices by 2.2%, to €650 per square meter. “Much more must be done in the future to consolidate the position of galleries,” said director Jennifer Flay at the time of the announcement.
It’s a proactive move for the world’s most prestigious contemporary art fairs to quickly shift longtime pricing standards to support galleries. Frieze Fairs director Victoria Siddall said that she hopes galleries feel they can participate in fairs without breaking the bank.
“It’s not surprising that we are all talking about the same thing; galleries are raising the same concerns,” Siddall told The Art Newspaper
. “It’s a positive thing that Art Basel is doing this, too. The more it becomes the norm, the more helpful it is for galleries.”