Following our earlier article on ‘How Culture Can Change Your Life’, and as we approach Frieze Week in London, we were intrigued about the cultural impact of art fairs on cities, so we sought advice from The Fine Art Group, an expert advisor on collecting and managing art as an asset. Read on to discover why cities thrive during art fairs or alternatively, if you would like to access an original version of this article, please visit The Fine Art Group website.

Author: The Fine Art Group

Arguably the most significant game changer to have reshaped the art world in the last half-century has been the emergence and subsequent domination of the Art Fair. On several occasions throughout the year and across the globe, we see the world’s elite congregate under one roof with the same common goal; to acquire and enjoy great art. Whilst these fairs seriously bolster the art market, their effects are felt far beyond the narrow context of wealth exchanged between buyers and dealers. Cities pulsate with the much broader social and cultural impacts that come to outweigh these economic accolades.

Hosting an art fair completely alters the character of a city; it becomes the epicentre of a tremendous ripple effect of satellite fairs, talks, parties and events, that bolster the city’s profile on the world stage. Whilst this may seem a drop in the ocean for mega-cities such as London and New York, other locations have been utterly revived by the opportunity. Needless to say, the Art Basel brand has had this effect the world over; Basel itself has become synonymous with what is widely considered the world’s premier art fair. Miami and Hong Kong have effected a total rebrand of their cities’ cultures since being incorporated into the Art Basel family.

This surge, whilst in part to do with the inpouring of the world’s rich list into a single place for a concentrated amount of time, finds its roots in a long-standing tradition of artistic events acting as pinnacles for cultural upheaval and progression. One could say that an influx of the world’s most creatively influential people into a single place might inevitably have this effect. The modern-day Art fair has a long and, at times, rebellious history, whose stimulus can be found in the defiant establishment of the Salon des Refusés. This iconic exhibition and the works in it (organised by the Impressionist painters whose ‘subversive’ works were rejected by the Paris Salon) are now seen as the cradle from whence the Modern art movement was born. And, like all great artistic and cultural innovations, the movement swayed the world around it to adapt and reflect its vision.

Waves of change create tides that shift and reshape everything in their path, seeing artists get swept up in its momentum leading creative industries to find ways of capitalising upon these currents. It goes without saying that the art world will deploy its sharpest performance, galleries promote their leading artists and auction houses host their high-end evening auctions, all accompanied by extremely glamorous launch parties. But the sheer number of artistic events reach far beyond the elitist sphere of affluent collectors. Top museums take advantage of the hype to bring together momentous exhibitions and satellite fairs have been established to represent more emerging and affordable artists.

London, during Frieze, which has established itself as one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, is a perfect example of a city, brimming over with exciting events geared towards art lovers, be they students, buyers, artists themselves or the merely curious. Running concurrently to Frieze is ‘The Other Art Fair’ in East London, catering to a younger crowd, the event (which now hosts fairs across the world) was set up both to complement and challenge more established art fairs.

These rival fairs illustrate brilliantly how London institutions have utilised the hype surrounding Frieze. By harnessing the city’s unique blend of tradition and cutting-edge, ‘London Art Week’ as it has now been dubbed due to the sheer volume of events taking place, plays host to exhibitions that garner universal attention. From the Basquiat show at the hyper-urban Barbican Centre to Tate Britain’s Rachel Whiteread retrospective, the London art scene will be unrivalled this season.

What Frieze has done for London is symptomatic of the energy that an art fair can bring to a city. Though both the Basquiat and the Whiteread shows will run for much longer than the duration of Frieze, it is no coincidence that these events coincide. London is a recognised world centre, but the danger of being firmly established is becoming complacent to that fact. Frieze, since its inaugural fair in 2003, has breathed new life into the London art scene, forcing this historic city to dust off its cobwebs and present itself anew, as a trailblazer of art and culture.

Though the boost art fairs bring to the economy (both for the art market and the local businesses that benefit from the surge of tourism) are laudable, the renaissance it has upon a city’s cultural landscape is unapparelled.


We would like to thank The Fine Art Group for sharing their views. To find out more, please contact Francesca Hawkins. Coming up next, The Fine Art Group provides a short list of events and openings to look forward to during Frieze Week – starts 5th October 2017.