The Art Perspective blog is a collection of thoughts, musings, and reflections on art, artists, and current happenings in the art world. 

Top 10 Tips for Attending Your First Art Fair

Yume Lion , 2009 by Takashi Murakami courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NYC

Yume Lion, 2009 by Takashi Murakami courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NYC

As we head into the last part of the year, there are still several major fairs including the already in-progress Seattle Art Fair, in September we have ABC Art Berlin Contemporary, in October we have Frieze, November brings the Paris Photo show, and of course December brings the best party of the year with Art Basel Miami Beach and the assorted fairs and events that coincide with that show.

If you have never attended a show before, it is understandable how you might find the idea a bit daunting at first, from not understanding much about art, to not knowing what to wear, or what to do. So we put together our top ten tips for attending your first art fair.

1) Dress for the Event - you are going to be looking at nice artwork, so you want to dress appropriately. That doesn't necessarily mean a suit, but you should consider pulling yourself together, chinos, a button-up collared shirt, a blazer, or cardigan, dress shoes. For ladies a simple dress always works, or a great pair of cigarette pants with a blazer. Heels may be an ambitious choice given the amount of walking you are going to do, so instead plan to finish your outfit with a great pair of flats. 

2) Do Your Homework - every fair has plenty of details about the unique galleries, offerings and types of programming that will be at their event. Have a look at the speaker series or the participating gallery list in advance, have a look at the type of artists they represent. If you are serious about potentially acquiring a piece, doing your homework in advance can save you both time and money. Galleries who are attending are there to sell, so chances are if you know what you're looking for, you may be able to get a good deal.

3) Be Respectful - we get know not everyone is going to have time to do their homework or be well versed in the current trends in the art world, but just because you don't understand them, does not mean you should mock them. Making rude or inappropriate comments about the artwork is frowned upon. Not only is it disrespectful to the artist, but it is unfair. You are entitled to your opinions, just keep them to yourself unless asked.

4) Look, but do NOT Touch - art is meant to be looked at, not fondled. Do not touch the artwork. Period.

5) Be Prepared to Walk - art fairs tend to cover a lot of space, and have various sections for certain types of work, installations or speaker series, etc. Be sure you are ready to walk. 

6) Booth Space - entering a booth is like entering a gallery. Expect the dealer or gallery representative to greet you and engage with you. Remember they are there to sell art, so it is okay to look, but don't linger and waste their time if you are there to just explore. This is particularly important because booth space is at a premium, so if you are in the space, you are essentially saying to the dealer that you are serious or potentially serious about buying.

7) The Dealer is NOT the Artist - there will undoubtedly be some artists present at the fair, but the majority of people you interact with at the Booths will be dealers representing the artists work from various galleries. No they are not the artist, don't ask them if they are the artist, but DO ask them about the artists they are representing. 

8) Be Prepared to Buy - art fairs occur over a short span of time, and for many is an opportunity to see and purchase works of art that they might not have otherwise had access to. For this reason you need to prepared to buy something when you see it and you like it. If you decide to wait, there is a good chance it won't be there by the time you come back.

9) Make the Most of the Experience - for most host cities the fair is a major event, which means there is usually a lot happening in the city in relation to the fair. Do your homework on what else is going on in the city, or what other auxiliary events are supporting the fair. Often restaurants or bars may have specials or events, hotel venues may have installation works or there may be additional programming as part of the fair, like various speaker series or workshops that you may want to take part in. 

10) Have fun - ultimately an art fair is a fun experience and it should be the goal of all attendees to enjoy themselves. You do not have to be the most knowledgable person about art, or pretend to know more than you do, just be honest and open to learning. A fair can be a great place to learn a lot about different artists, styles and works, so if you come prepared to learn and have fun, chances are you will!