FIAC satellite fair Officielle, that was supposed to be held in October just got indefinitely postponed. The organizer of the fair, Reed Exhibitions stated that the event was postponed because of the high costs of booths and the perceived remoteness of the venue where the fair is held (Cité de la Mode et du design). 2016 seems to be a strange year for art fairs since this is the third art fair by the same organizer that got cancelled and postponed this year and one of many that experienced problems with both insufficient entries and substantial organizational expenses. But what does it mean for the art market?
The decision to postpone the fair was published today, (on February, 25th 2016). It is yet unknown when will the fair be held since the organizers haven't suggested any other replacement date. According to FIAC’s director Jennifer Flay the reasons for putting the event on hold lay in the “perceived remoteness of the Cité de la Mode et du design and high costs of the stands”. And though some participants such as Bernard Ceysson gallery were happy with their last year's sales many other galleries were simply unable to meet the costs of their entries and decided not to participate in this year's edition.
Recently there has been quite a few cancellations of the art fairs around the globe. Just last week a premier biennial art fair in Melbourne got cancelled after three major galleries withdraw their entries. Reed Exhibitions, the organizers of Art Fair Officielle, also had to cancel two other art fairs this year - US fairs Paris Photo LA and FIAC LA. Both fairs held in California were cancelled just few years after they were established because of surprisingly low sale. When fair in Melbourne got cancelled the organizers named too much competition as one of the main reasons for cancellation. Jennifer Flay also admitted that Paris Internationale, a new event that was first organized last year influenced their decision to postpone the fair.
Dating back to 15th-century, art fairs have drastically risen in popularity in the last several decades. But now it seems that they are losing their appeal. There appear to be two reasons for the art fair recurring difficulties - first a large number of fairs throughout the year, and second the inability to find sufficient works for the exhibitions. Competition was named as one of the reasons for both Melbourne fair cancellation and the FIAC recent decision to postpone and cancel its events. It seems that the art fairs recent boom reached its limits as more and more events struggle to attract participants. Critics Adam Lindemann for instance, thinks that we see too many of the "same faces" these events and that the “freshness of new discoveries has mostly evaporated because there are so many international fairs in a single year”. Jason Frago, journalist of the acclaimed newspapers The Guardian also believes that these events turned "boring and predictable" with similar imagery repeating over and over again. Art expert Georgina Adam believes that too many art fairs lead to overproduction of mediocre works. With so many fairs to visit the artists and galleries struggle to satisfy the demand, which is why they often exhibit cheaper and repetitive works.
It seems however that the cancellation of the art fairs won't have too big of an influence on the emerging art market itself. In the exploration of the art fair phenomena, Adam Lindemann brings attention to the fact that many galleries pre-sell all their best artworks and only bring lesser works to the fairs. Also the fact that there are new fairs opening every year proves that these events will probably continue to dominate the art market in the next few years. It just the matter of getting the right model for the fair. Even Reed Exhibitions decided not to give up and to extend its original FIAC fair to an additional event despite its problems with other three fairs. The new fair will be called On Site and it will feature a selection of large-scale works presented by galleries showing at FIAC. Hopefully, it will sustain longer than the LA satellite fairs.
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Featured image : Les Docks Cité de la Mode et du Design. Copyright JAKOB MARCFARLANE. Thibaut Vankemel Agence Les Barbus