Artfully Attending an Art Fair

Artfully Attending an Art Fair

Think of the art fair as being rather like the beauty section of a department store. Each counter (or in this case, booth) offering you a showcase of the finest products from across the globe – but in one convenient location. By attending an international art fair you have the opportunity to visit several galleries in one hit – rather than searching across cities, countries or even across continents for that perfect purchase.


Ok – so hopefully the department store analogy has helped – but if you are still feeling unsure we have put together some statements that every art fair first timer is likely to have thought to themselves – and countered them with our top three bits of advice to overcome each hurdle. So sit back, relax, and start planning your ultimate art fair experience….


“Erm…. I have no idea what type of art I like!”

  1. Start by researching – A great first port of call could be Pinterest – but you can also use curated websites such as Saatchi Art to get a sense of the style of art you find yourself drawn to.
  2. Use the fair’s website and social media channels to familiarise yourself with works by exhibiting artists and galleries. That way you’ll know what to expect – and which booths to prioritise when you get there.
  3. Follow some art fairs, artists and galleries on Instagram. Following artists will often provide you with intimate glimpses into their working practices and tantalising photos of their works in progress.


“Ok, But I still have no idea what I am doing!”

  1. Practice makes perfect! Start by walking into one of your local galleries. Vancouver for one has plenty of brilliant places to familiarise yourself with looking at art – like South Granville for example. Often galleries will host opening nights and private view events so try to attend one before the fair to get a sense of what people wear, how they conduct themselves and what exactly goes on.
  2. Bring a friend along to the fair. Having someone who you know and trust accompany you will certainly make approaching gallerists less daunting and will make the day much more fun.
  3. Buy a multi day pass. This affords you the luxury of less time pressure and more space for consideration and deliberation. You can always discuss putting a reserve on a piece to buy you more thinking time too.


“But actually buying art?! I wouldn’t know how – or what to look for”


  1. Patrick Lajoie from Lustre Contemporary can help with one. He says:  “My biggest piece of advice is not to focus too much on pedigree, or what you think would be a good investment, but to look for pieces that you love and that you have an emotional response to, whether they make you happy or trigger some sort of personal meaning.” And as Charles Saatchi says:  “There are no rules about investment. Sharks can be good. Artist’s dung can be good. Oil canvas can be good.” So we can conclude that the expert advice is: go with what feels right to you.
  2. If you find a booth with work you like then talk to the artist/gallery – find out more about the work and the artist by engaging in conversation. Most artists are only too happy to tell you about their work and what inspires them.
  3. And finally – whilst it is important to set a budget, do not dismiss something outright because it is out of your price range. Lots of galleries offer installment plans and finance options to help budding art collectors on their way.


“Ok thanks – this has all been really helpful… but what if I just want to attend and not buy art?”

  1. There is no shame in attending an art fair to simply enjoy looking at art. Any good fair will undoubtedly offer up plentiful opportunities to learn more about art and artists, and rub shoulders with knowledgeable art lovers. So embrace the opportunity to simply integrate and participate.
  2. Art fairs are also about immersing yourself in the arts scene. So turn your visit into an occasion. Wear the clothes, try the food, drink the drinks and attend the after parties. And of course: don’t forget to take the photos and post the posts.
  3. And finally – even if you are not contemplating a purchase at this moment, it doesn’t hurt to collect some business cards and postcards – just in case you change your mind later!


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