5 Thing to Consider When Collecting Fine Art from Art Fairs

Art fairs are an opportunity to see fine art from around the globe, all in one place. They present an occasion for collectors to hone their eye, be introduced to the best art to invest in, and be educated through programming, tours and networking with industry insiders. 

While these fairs are excellent opportunities to grow a collection, they can also be intimidating and overwhelming. Whether you are an experienced collector or are just starting out, make the most of your art fair experience by following these 5 key tips. 

Do Your Research

Art fairs have surged over the past two decades. We have gone from less than 60 a year in 2000 to several hundred today. With so many options available at locations around the world, it can be difficult to determine where to spend your time and money. Before making any decisions, it is crucial to research what fairs to attend based on factors like size, scope, and price point. Different fairs have different offerings. Some, like Art Basel, cater to seasoned collectors with spending power. Others, like The Other Art Fair, are dedicated to showcasing emerging artists and catering to a wider public. 

No matter what your motivations are or your budget is when collecting fine art, it is important to make a list of potential options and narrow it down based on select criteria. If there is a specific artist you’re interested to invest in or a gallerist you have a relationship with, look online to see what upcoming fairs they’re participating in. Other factors such as travel costs, timing and theme should also be considered.

Art Fair VIP Access

Many art fairs offer VIP access passes that are available for purchase. It is worth looking into, depending on what your motivations are. It is also possible to ask for one from a gallery or dealer if you are an established client. At most fairs, these VIP access cards will allow for free entry and re-entry, and they also offer other perks such as special receptions, talks and early access. If you decide to purchase a special pass, be sure to take advantage of the offerings and perks. Art fairs are great places to buy, of course, but they are even better places to learn. 

Fine Art Networking

Art fairs are as much about networking as acquisition. Take advantage of social opportunities to meet artists, dealers, gallerists and other art world insiders who can be helpful in the future. If you are in the early stages of building a collection, it can be especially helpful to speak with experienced collectors and art world professionals before investing in artworks. Learning the ropes from veteran art enthusiasts is the best way forward. 

Opening Night

Opening night at art fairs is usually an important event. There are parties and receptions and, typically, it is when the first sales of the fair are made, and also when the most prestigious works are often purchased. If you are looking to make a significant acquisition or invest in paintings with a high price tag, opening night is a must.

Opening night also presents a prime opportunity to network. If you take a particular liking to the art or an artist on-sale in a certain booth, introduce yourself to the gallerist. They are there to talk about their offerings and answer questions about pricing, historical significance, artist history, how the paintings has been displayed and protected over the years and more. They can also be helpful in providing provenance records and establishing authenticity. 

In addition, returning clients are often given advance sales notice or first look at new works, so creating connections is a worthy use of your time, and will come in handy in the future. 

Have a Strategy for Picking the Best Art to Invest In

Many collectors attend art fairs in order to find specific items to fill in gaps in their collections or to make calculated fine art investments. It’s worth taking a page out of the seasoned collector’s book and coming with your own strategy at hand. 

Consider Your Core Values

Before you start collecting fine art or buying art as an investment, it is important to clearly outline your tastes and values. Asking the right questions can help to narrow down needs versus wants when buying art as an investment. What spaces are you looking for art for? What do you want to convey via this art? What will help to round out your collection? How do certain styles underscore or enhance your company’s brand and values? These are questions to consider before attending a fair, as they will inform your approach

In addition to considerations to make when purchasing art on-site, it is also important to think about commissioning potential. Perhaps you are introduced to an artist with a style you admire, but their available works aren’t a fit for your space. If you have the budget, it is always possible to commission something. Investing in artwork that is site-specific and completely unique is an exciting possibility. 

Navigate Systematically

Pore over the floor plan beforehand to map out what your ‘must-see’ booths are. Take that list and go over it again and again until you have a shortlist of between 10 and 20 booths. Map out your day and chart the order of the booths you will visit. This will make navigating the chaos of the floorless overwhelming and save time in the long run. Once you have crossed off your ‘must-see’ booths, you can peruse the floor at a more leisurely pace before you invest in a particular painting

Did We Mention Research?

Once you have zeroed in on art objects of interest, the real work begins. As a collector, it is important to do research on the artist, gallerist and art market as a whole to get an idea of which piece is the best art to buy for your investment. Some rules of thumb when preparing to make a fine art investment are:

  • Don’t overspend

Look up the artist or subject matter through auction result histories and consider comparable works. These touchpoints will give you an understanding of the market value of a work and help you negotiate to reach a reasonable price with the dealer. It is important to educate yourself and avoid being taken advantage of or overspending. Networking can also help with this issue, as valued customers are less likely to be ripped off by dealers and gallerists with whom they have a prior relationship. 

  • Ask about provenance

Provenance, or the history of an art object, is essential in determining the value and legitimacy of any work of art. Ask for provenance documentation to be sure the piece you are interested in is authentic. If the gallerist cannot provide physical documentation of the work’s legitimacy, do not buy art as an investment through them. Paintings that lack provenance are, at best, worthless at auction and, at worst, fakes or forgeries.

  • Ask about additional inventory

If a gallerist has something you like or represents an artist you like, chances are they might have other interesting options as well. Dealers and gallerists can’t bring every item in their inventory to fairs, so it is worth inquiring about works of art that are not on-site. Asking the right questions can lead to a more exciting purchase, a better overall fit for your collection, or an introduction to an exciting artist to invest in

Discover David Stanley Hewett’s Japanese Inspired Avant-Garde Art

Art fairs are an opportunity for discovering. They are a way to discover emerging artists, connect with galleries and dealers, and chart current and upcoming trends in the market. Above all else, they will help you hone your eye and broaden your network, whether you’re a budding collector or a seasoned expert. 

As you set up your next art fair strategy and review the best art to buy for investment, be sure to consider David Stanley Hewett’s Japanese-inspired fine art for your collection. His work serves to preserve the traditional artistry and culture of Japan, with a deep understanding of the complicated acquisition process for collectors. Hewett’s artwork can be found in a variety of group and solo exhibitions, and can be purchased through several contemporary galleries. To learn more about David Stanley Hewett, take a look at his fine art here.