In the 20th century, the art fair redefined the concept of collecting. Intended as a place for dealers, collectors, and connoisseurs of art to meet, this exhibition-based event has grown into an international phenomenon, with iterations popping up all over the globe.
While there are over 260 art fairs in existence today, a handful have retained their status as the most significant. Here, we unpack these important art fairs, presenting 7 that are particularly popular.
Here are some of today's most important international art fairs.
Art Basel is renowned as the world's biggest contemporary art fair. At this annual event, top galleries from across the globe meet to showcase and sell a wide variety of art, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photography, digital art, video art, and installations.
The first Art Basel was held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1970. Since its successful inaugural event, it has adopted two outposts: Miami Beach in Florida and Hong Kong in China. Each show boasts state-of-the-art exhibition space, as well as lavish events and satellite fairs.
On top of its trio of fairs, Art Basel has also launched a program called Art Basel Cities. This unique initiative revolves around partnerships that “engages Art Basel's expertise, broad network of collectors, art world leaders and influencers, as well as its global communication channels to support cities in developing and celebrating their unique cultural landscape.”
Frieze Art Fair
Frieze Art Fair is an art fair held in London and New York. Annually, it features more than 170 galleries and hosts a curated program of artists' talks and performances.
Frieze Art Fair has exhibited contemporary art in London since 2003. In 2014, it spawned two new fairs: Frieze New York and Frieze Masters. Like Frieze London, Frieze New York showcases “the world’s most exciting artists, from the emerging to the iconic,” while Frieze Masters features work that spans thousands of years.
In 2019, the fair will launch a new event: Frieze Los Angeles. This offshoot will show work from 70 contemporary art galleries from around the world and a collection of site-specific artists' projects.
Since 1988, The European Fine Art Fair, or TEFAF, has exhibited art, antiques, and design in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Annually, 260 galleries from 20 countries showcase art at TEFAF Maastricht, which features work covering 7,000 years of art history.
In addition to its Dutch event, TEFAF is also held twice a year in New York. TEFAF New York Spring revolves around modern and contemporary art and design, while TEFAF New York Fall features fine and decorative art from antiquity through 1920.
With this encyclopedic approach to buying and selling art, TEFAF aims to engage eclectic audiences. As its website states: “TEFAF champions the finest quality art from across the ages by creating a community of the world's top art dealers and experts to inspire lovers and buyers of art everywhere.”
The Armory Show
“A leading cultural destination for discovering and collecting the world's most important 20th and 21st-century art,” New York's annual Armory Show has attracted modern and contemporary art collectors since 1994.
In addition to promoting work by well-known figures, the Armory Show also aims to support emerging artists. Work by these new artists is spotlit at both the main event itself and at the many smaller satellite fairs that pop up during “Armory Show Week.”
Foire internationale d'art contemporain, or FIAC, is annually held in Paris' iconic Grand Palais and Petit Palais. It showcases modern and contemporary art and design from major galleries around the world.
Unlike most other art fair locales, this site is steeped in exhibition-related history. As the Petit Palais was built for the 1900 World's Fair, it offers exhibiters a “unique environment to exhibit sculptures and installations in a museum and historical context.”
On top of its exceptional exhibition space, FIAC also offers a range of programs, including performances, films, and conversations.
Known as the “world's most globally diverse art fair,” Art Dubai has one of Asia's leading art fairs since 2007. While it features art from galleries all over the world, it is particularly celebrated for its dedication to work by Middle Eastern and North African artists.
Art Dubai's exhibition space is split into four sections: Modern, Contemporary, Residents (a series of “solo presentations from invited galleries whose artists will take part in a 4-8 week residency in the UAE”), and Bawwaba (a collection of 10 exhibits created specifically for the fair).
SCOPE Art Show
With an emphasis on finding and forecasting “new visual trends,” SCOPE Art Show has showcased the work of up-and-coming artists and new galleries for over 15 years. In addition to New York, its original home, the art show also annually pops up as satellite fairs in Miami Beach and Basel.
Art exhibited at SCOPE spans mediums and disciplines, ranging from traditional fine art to digital work.