The World’s Best Art Fairs

“Art fairing” is a common practice among a certain set. We cover the basics of the world’s best art fairs.

Last year, the New York Times called a dip in attendance at the world’s art fairs “fair fatigue,” citing Skate’s Art Market Research that “1,032,792 people attended the world’s top 20 art fairs in 2014, a 7.4 percent decline from the year before.”

Still, 1 million people traveling to art fairs around the world is an impressive number. Where a few biennials and triennials dominated the 1990s, fine-art fairs have become not only a serious travel trend, but also a marker of affluence. Gallery owners rent a booth or space to showcase their artists, generally over a several-day period, but for the well-connected, the parties and exclusive invites are the social ticket of the season. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

Art Basel

June 15-18, 2017
Basel, Switzerland

Art Basel (pictured at top) debuted in 1970 and has since turned into the most massive international contemporary art fair, with offshoots in Miami Beach and Hong Kong. In 2016, more than 280 of the world’s most important galleries showed the work of 4,000 artists in the Basel original, with talks, exhibitions, films and, of course, parties. Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach are a swirl of VIP events, where you may see the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Pharrell, Jay-Z and Beyoncé alongside famous gallerists and artists.

Frieze London

Dates TBA, 2017

Usually held in October, this London art fair was founded in 2003 and is housed inside Regent’s Park. Focusing only on contemporary, living artists, the growing program includes three sections: the main Galleries section, Focus (young galleries) and Live (participatory works). The annual nonprofit program also includes the prestigious Frieze Artist Award, Frieze Film (new commissions that premiere at the fair) and Frieze Music (an off-site music program). Its satellite fair, Frieze New York, is held in May in a pavilion on Randall’s Island in New York, where attendees can view and buy art from more than 1,000 artists, check out commissioned sculpture projects and attend art talks.


October 19-22, 2017

The acronym for Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, FIAC takes place every October in some of the city’s most iconic and beautiful venues: the Grand Palais, the Tuileries and the Jardin des Plantes. About 180 galleries from 25 countries come together to show their work, and there’s free access to much of the fair. Art prices, too, can be far more accessible than in other international fairs. While serious collectors attend to pick up major pieces, many of the sales are actually pieces that cost less than 100 euros.


November 2017
Turin, Italy

One of Europe’s most important contemporary art fairs, Artissima takes place each November in the Oval Lingotto Fiere (built as an ice rink for the 2006 Olympics). More than 52,000 visitors attended in 2015 to see exhibitors from 35 countries and 194 galleries. It’s an important proving ground for newbies in contemporary art, and houses not only five sections within the venue, but also projects in public and private institutions all over the city.


March 10-19, 2017
Maastricht, Netherlands

One of the best art and antiques fairs in the world, TEFAF takes place three times a year on two continents, with two shows per year in New York held in October and May. Broadly encompassing, it includes 20th-century design, Old Masters, haute jewelry and more. The fair itself is also regarded as a gauge of the larger market, publishing its annual TEFAF Art Market Report since 2000, which uses data from auctioneers, dealers and collectors to provide a global perspective on art market trends. Every work is vetted by experts for inclusion, and few fairs rival the seriousness of TEFAF in the art world.

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