How to Visit an Art Fair
We have just left the Contemporary İstanbul art fair behind, and London will be our capital of contemporary art in October thanks to Frieze-mania, followed by Miami in December with Art Basel and other alternative, satellite fairs. In recent years, collectors and art enthusiasts from Turkey have been regularly visiting the most important global art events; this tendency results in the emergence of much higher-quality exhibitions and collections in our art scene, as the latter becomes a part of an increasingly more international context.
On the other hand, visiting an art fair is an art form in itself. There are so many works to see, panels to attend and artists to meet within such a limited amount of time! In those busy days and hours with endless entrance, cloakroom and restaurant queues, the only way to navigate without clashing into others is to perform ballet, as average levels of stress and fatigue in the environment tend to rise. So what shall we do to make sure we are ready for the experience, and to use this limited time in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible? We asked Banu Çarmıklı, one of the most professional fair visitors, to provide us with tips on her area of specialization and came up with an amazing guide on “how to visit an art fair”. Enjoy!
How should we prepare for the visit? What should we read? How should we get dressed? Things to and not to bring with us?
B.Ç. : The names of the outstanding galleries, artists and artworks in the fair begin to emerge in online publications before the event. Adding the names of artists to be discovered and some project-based booths to your list will also be useful. This way you will have saved yourself from trying to remember them one by one and you will directly approach your target. As you will spend a long time in there, the best is to wear comfortable shoes and clothes that match the season. Although air conditioning in fairgrounds is quite strong, it can often remain insufficient. So keep in mind it might get really hot. Also remember we can’t enter the premises with food and drinks; but water is a must-have.
How and at what times and days shall we attend the fair?
B.Ç. : For those with a VIP access, the most comfortable times would surely be the early hours of the preview. Attendance is very high during weekends in all fairs, and an efficient visit is very difficult. I would recommend you to enter the premises before noon, no matter what day it is.
Visiting the entire fair within a limited amount of time can be really challenging. How should we determine our route to maximize the number of artworks seen and minimize fatigue without missing the important items in our list? How shall we plan our breaks?
B.Ç. : You should conduct a preliminary research on the locations of the galleries and booths you definitely want to see. As you will receive too much visual stimulation starting from the entrance, you risk missing the points you intended to see in the first place. It could be helpful to mark these locations on your notebook or on the fairground plan. As restaurants are generally located in between the fairs’ main sections, it sounds like a good idea to take a break when you are in those areas.
There are certain visitor archetypes. Can we get to know them in more detail? What are the main characteristics of each?
B.Ç. : Most of the time it’s possible to recognize both senior and junior collectors from the amount of time they spend in front of an artwork, and from the types of questions they ask. They may appear thoughtful and calm while they plan their acquisitions. Art professionals and students, on the other hand, can be recognized from their attentive gazes although they don’t communicate with the gallerists as much. Finally, in my opinion, the art enthusiasts most of whom appear in the weekends are faster, more extroverted and their concentration is more fluctuating.
Exhibiting galleries and artists are another aspect of the fair… How shall we communicate with them, and what are the things to be careful about when visiting their booths?
B.Ç. : Although they hardly express it, be aware of how tired they are; avoid questions and behaviors that will cause them to warn you or to make unnecessary explanations to you.
How should we take pictures at the fair? How should we publish them on social media?
B.Ç. : I think it’s more appropriate to take the picture of an artwork from a good angle than taking selfies with it. I also find it inappropriate to share images without the artist and gallery credits added to them. “Art” should always remain as the main purpose.
Three things “you should never, ever do” at an art fair?
B.Ç. : Of course don’t touch the artworks. Don’t view everything from the screen of your phone by getting lost in the sharing hysteria of social media. Don’t share or expose anything on social media that could put an artist in a difficult position.
Many satellite events like exhibitions and openings, especially museum exhibitions, take place around a city during its art fair week. Considering we have very limited time and energy resources, it’s nearly impossible to attend them all. How do you decide which ones to attend?
B.Ç. : My main criterion is the artist involved. I also try to attend the openings of those galleries I have personal relations with. Openings are not comfortable for viewing an exhibition anyway.
Three things you must take home with you as you leave the fair?
B.Ç. : The fair catalog to digest the artworks you have seen and to find more information on them. Brochures about artists and galleries you intend to follow. Special fair edition of a magazine of your preference.