Art Brussels

Speakers: Ute Meta Bauer, Dean of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London; Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, Artistic Director, Artissima; Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, London; Dirk Snauwaert, Director, Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels
Moderated by: Sabrina van der Ley, Director for Contemporary Art, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo
In recent years, Art Fairs have become a significant component of the contemporary art world. As it has expanded so have art fairs; and, despite the economic crisis, they continue to proliferate, now numbering at over 200. Though the art fair model does not perhaps provide the best spatial conditions for viewing art, it nevertheless provides many opportunities to see a wide variety of art in a concentrated context. Art fairs have also become an essential part of the livelihoods of many galleries and artists. Yet they also receive frequent criticism. For some, art fairs are a ‘necessary evil’, for others a superficial lifestyle phenomenon where commerce trumps art, and for others a place where the quality of art is undermined by the pressure to produce ‘art fair art’. But are art fairs really so bad after all? Surely they must contribute something, otherwise they would not be such a success. This panel aims to discuss the pros and cons of the art fair phenomenon. What are they good for? What are they bad for? How have they affected art, the market, art production, and the way we look at art? Art fairs are also easy and predictable targets of criticism as far as the art market is concerned. While some of these criticisms are well founded, less common is a frank and unbiased discussion about what art fairs might actually positively contribute. As with everything, there are two sides to the coin. The panel thus will also highlight the double standards and hypocrisy with which the art market and art fairs are often discussed. While so many people seem readily able to exercise criticism about the evils of the art fair and the art market, these very same people also unwittingly participate in it. The panel thus aims to generate an honest discussion about the opportunities art fairs provide for galleries, artists and collectors and what their contribution has been to the contemporary artistic landscape, beyond the standard critique they face.

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