Five tips on how to survive art fairs

Artworks on display at Frieze London 2014, a contemporary art fair. -- PHOTO: LINDA NYLIND/ FRIEZE
Artworks on display at Frieze London 2014, a contemporary art fair. -- PHOTO: LINDA NYLIND/ FRIEZE

It is not unusual for curious travellers to sneak in a day or more of art and culture when on vacation. But the rise and growing prominence of art biennials and fairs have turned them into a force to behold.

Cultural pride and ambition for international recognition have spurred many cities to organise their own non-commercial biennials, while the hunger for art-collecting has led to the burgeoning of commercial fairs.

Here are five tips on how to survive art fairs.


Grab a map of the exhibition grounds

With hundreds of works sprawled over multiple exhibition halls and venues, the only way to avoid getting lost or repeating ground you have covered is to have a map so you can check off the places you have explored.

It is also useful to mark out galleries with pieces that catch your eye so that you waste no time getting back to the booths to snap up the works, suggests lawyer and seasoned fairgoer Valerie Cheah.

Get on the gallery mailing list

If there are galleries showing work you are interested in, get on their mailing lists, says Ms Talenia Phua Gajardo, chief executive of the online art gallery and consultancy The Artling. She says: "It is likely that if they are hosting an event during the fair period, you may get invited if you are on their mailing list."

Do not be afraid to ask questions

Gallerist Richard Koh says he often sees people who "just walk around and look at art without asking any questions or engaging with what they are seeing". If you are curious, ask politely. You will usually get answers.

Bring comfortable shoes

Whether you go for the art or parties, these juggernaut art shows demand you to be on your feet, so be kind to yourself and wear comfortable shoes. If you must match your shoes with your party outfit, pack a separate pair of glamorous kicks, which is what Ms Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani, a curator and part-time fine arts lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts, does.

Do not procrastinate

The major art biennials and fairs draw crowds of visitors and hotel rooms are often snapped up quickly. Gallerist Audrey Yeo says: "For art fairs like Art Basel in Miami and Basel, Switzerland, it is advisable to plan your hotel stay a year ahead as regular fairgoers tend to book their rooms for the following year when they leave the fair this year."