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The Gallerist’s Art Fair Survival Guide

Art fairs may be important for a gallery’s success, but they can also be stressful for the gallerists themselves. With Miami Art Week just two weeks away, we polled a variety of fairgoers to bring you some of the most useful advice we could find. 

  • Art Basel in Miami Beach, 2015. Photo by Oriol Tarridas for Artsy.

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Alina Kohlem

Sales Director at Dominique Lévy Gallery in London

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
Plenty of water and a spare pair of loafers for the closet.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Chocolate and Tylenol Xtra Strength.

5 fairs attended in the last year

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Alain Servais

Collector and Entrepreneur

What’s your top art fair survival tip?
Manage it like a sport contest: choose your priorities before arriving, arrive in good shape, start early in the morning, use the most time-effective transport (which is rarely the car, even with a driver), be selective of who you are engaging in conversation with, eat fast, respect your priorities, finish late and be in bed by midnight.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
The old-fashion camera and notebook in which I indicate what I like for later decisions, in which gallery and at what price but also the smartphone to keep track of the agenda and the directions in order to minimize transit times.

55 fairs attended in the last year

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Niels Kantor

Owner of Kantor Gallery in Santa Monica

What’s your top art fair survival tip?
Go early.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Extra power for your phone and walking shoes.

5 fairs attended in the last year

  • Mark Rosen for Artsy

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Nilani Trent

Art Advisor

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
For me, the hardest thing about an art fair is eating properly. I am often on my feet from start to finish of the fair each day so I make sure to bring lots of snacks. Stay hydrated, no alcohol that week and have a good breakfast.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
I bring my Jenny Holzer bicycle to Art Basel Miami. It has a lot of attitude and always makes me smile.

6 fairs attended in the last year

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Nate Freeman 

Senior Staff Writer at ARTnews

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
The key thing is to get to the fair right at the opening, right at the start—sometimes I'm just waiting by the door, and walk in as soon as the clock strikes 11:00 and the guards open the floodgates. The fair is as empty as it ever will be, and you can stroll through without having one stop and chat after another. Nothing wrong with stop and chats! If you see me, by all means, say hello! Just saying it's nice to actually see all the fair before the socializing begins.  

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Notebook and pens. I have a habit of stealing pens from my favorite hotel bars around the world, and I've got quite the collection going, so I pick out a few special ones to bring to the big fairs. You know, it's funny how many people comment on the fact that I carry a notebook and write longhand at fair. They look at me like I'm carrying an ancient artifact or something! But when you're using your phone to take pictures and write emails while you navigate the heavy traffic streaming through the aisles of an art fair, it's nice to have a separate place to write.  

12 fairs attended in the last year

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Elena Soboleva

Curator of Special Projects at Artsy

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
Buy a wifi hotspot for data. A hotspot has gotten me directions amidst the canals of Venice, kept me Instagramming through Frieze, and offered a reprieve from the lack of reliable wifi at all the fairs. As a plus you can connect it to your iPhone to make calls and your laptop to send emails and it costs much less than roaming. 

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Perpetual optimism to discover talent!

35 fairs attended in the last year

  • Mark Rosen for Artsy

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Benjamin Mason Meier

Associate Professor of Global Health Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Editor’s note: We asked Meier specifically about Zika concerns and wanted to share his advice. For more information on Zika, he recommends the CDC's Zika site.

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
Don’t freak out. Miami Beach has recently been designated an active Zika virus transmission area by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This CDC designation is no cause for significant concern, where transmission by infected mosquitoes is rare and symptoms of the illness are mild. However, given the highly-publicized (if still small) risk of birth defects resulting from those infected during pregnancy, you should be mindful of this year’s health risk and take appropriate precautions. To prevent Zika infection, use insect repellent, avoid sleeping outdoors, and wear long sleeves and long pants. If you do acquire Zika from a mosquito, it is believed that women retain the virus in their system for up to 8 weeks and men for up to 6 months — during which time, a woman’s pregnancy could be at risk. If a couple is considering a pregnancy, please know that it is possible to test for Zika infection.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Zika is principally spread through mosquito bites and sexual activity, so you should bring repellent for the mosquitoes and condoms for the boys. 

Fairs attended in the last year: "More than you would expect"

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Annka Kultys

Owner of Annka Kultys Gallery in London

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
[Wear a] good pair of comfortable shoes, drink water, eat fruits.

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
An iPad with Artsy Folio to instantly share your works, your business cards, and a notebook for collector information.

8 fairs attended in the last year

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Leanne Elliott Young 

Artist and Director at COMMUNE

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
Go with your gut, the innate response should always take precedent, avoid the lure of the spectacle, and spend time with the works. The atmosphere is akin to a pressurized cabin: little air, bizarre faux lights, and a sea of hairstyles and air kisses. Your senses are spiked so you need concentration along with a heady momentum. Make an agenda but always go off-piste.  

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
A mophie charger; a modern day crisis is one of low battery. You need your phone not only to keep track of time, but also of your chosen aesthetics—your phone is the archive of your visual dialog. Keep a staunch contemplative overview of your time at the fair. And do not be one of those stuck scribing with pen and made-do paper. The reality is that a gallery’s calling card left lurking within the depths of your brimming bag is not sufficient. Get organized, keep your life blood flowing!

12 fairs attended in the last year

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Simon de Pury

Co-founder of de Pury de Pury

Whats your top art fair survival tip?
Go for it!

Whats the most useful thing you bring to a fair?
Passion.

12 fairs attended in the last year



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