Published: 29 September 2017
Art fairs have been around for years, and those living in any of the world's major cities (but by this point in history, any city at all, really) will have known of, or attended a few. This article breaks down the basics of art fairs, as pertains to Thompson's Gallery. We'll discuss the What, Why and How, according to us at TG.
A view of the most recent instalment of London Art Fair (2017) from our gallery stand.
WHAT we bring to an art fair
Thompson's Gallery have been dealing in art for over 30 years. Over such a span, the gallery has seen and exhibited numerous trends, tastes, and artistic outputs. From Victorian watercolours and antiques, to neon-lit abstract hybrid paintings and carved wooden animals, the gallery has remained committed to giving all types of artistic expression a chance. With art fairs in particular, the format of a fast-paced, week-long expo allows for more risks and experimentation in what art is brought to the stand. So, WHAT Thompson's take to fairs is a little bit of everything. Familiar crowd favourites, Modern British notables, and a healthy mixture of newcomers combine to show the range and versatility which exists through decades of art dealing.
Pictured above: Our stand at last year's Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Autumn Edition (2016)
WHY attend an art fair anyways?
As a small commercial art gallery, we benefit from the exposure and opportunity which art fair participation can offer. London Art Fair attracts a global rosters of participating galleries, and with that a global audience. Each fair presents another chance to meet new clients, artists, journalists, and other galleries from all over the world. The potential turnover is a large incentive, as well- art fairs are condensed, and intense by design, with dealmaking and quick turnaround in mind by its organizers and attendees alike.
Pictured above: New Michael Adamson paintings being unpacked for an art fair at Thompson's Gallery London
HOW we participate in an art fair
Taking part in an art fair is more complicated than merely showing up to a venue with a truck full of paintings. Here's how the general process goes, from the ground up.
1. Apply to exhibit: Art fairs require galleries to apply for each upcoming instalment, reviewing each application from a large pool of hopefuls. Applicants typically must provide written responses to questions about founding history, which artists they intend to exhibit at the fair, notable press and artists affiliated with the gallery, and past participation in the series. Verdicts are delivered months after application deadlines, and from that point we arrange stand design, lighting, and note other amenities we'll need for the week.
2. Get the works in: If we intend to bring an artist with us to a fair, we notify them before we even apply to exhibit. This is for two main reasons: firstly, to allow artists time to produce quality, new work for the fair and second, to ensure they haven't already committed to another gallery for the same fair (as most fairs have rules against this). About two weeks before the fair begins, artists deliver their work to the gallery for consignment and preparation.
3. Plan, prep & pack: The week before the fair, we're busy prepping all aspects of the stand, including boxes of hanging and wrapping supplies, spare tools, printed materials, and of course the artworks. We also plan a tentative staff schedule, rotating our small team between the art fair and gallery. We book a van to transport the lot to the venue the day before opening night. We spend a good amount of hours hanging the stand, and a little more time doing press.
4. Go time: Once the fair kicks off, it's a whirlwind of 4-5 days with everyone in 'all hands on deck' mode. From the preview evening, to 'late opens' and the unpredictable weekend days, an art fair is tumultuous, exhausting and exciting. Once the fair concludes, we pack up the remaining artworks to transport in a second and final van ride to the gallery.
We take part in roughly 3-4 art fairs per year. This is actually considered to be on the lower end of the spectrum, as some galleries will exhibit in 8 or more annually.
Visit our stand at the next art fair in October (16-22) in Battersea at Affordable Art Fair: Autumn Edition. For information on tickets and artworks, email us at enquiries@thompsonsgallery or call +44(0)2079353595. See you there!