Before Bernard Lumpkin was an art collector, he went to art fairs for the same reasons that someone might go to any exposition: to explore a new world. His first fair was in 2008 at the Armory Show in New York, where he made his first offer on a piece of art.

Since then, after years of collecting, Mr. Lumpkin’s approach to art fairs has evolved. He may still buy something, but that is not his primary motivation for going.

“Now that I have more connections in the art world and other buying options, I go mostly to look, learn and network,” he said. “I might not be buying, per se, but I’m still getting a lot of business done.”

Whatever the motivations, art fairs have grown in importance to dealers and collectors in the past decade. This week and next, two established fairs are back in New York: the Art Show, which runs through this weekend, and the Armory Show, which opens on Thursday.

They compete on the world stage with big international gatherings like Art Basel, which has expanded from Switzerland to Hong Kong and Miami Beach, and the Frieze shows in London and New York. Read more