Taking the show on the road

With an estimated 270 art fairs a year globally, and galleries reporting between 40% and 60% of their sales taking place at fairs, dealers are increasingly embracing them as viable alternatives to a year-round, permanent address.

London dealer Anthony Reynolds, who closed his physical space in 2015 but continues to operate, says he treats art fairs as “another gallery venue”, usually presenting solo shows and applying to exhibit in sections of art fairs that allow him to focus on one period in history. This year his gallery is taking part in five fairs.

The squeeze is also taking its toll on dealers of historical works, many of whom have chosen to function as inventory-holding advisers rather than maintain a physical location. Some are turning to art fairs as surrogates for exhibition spaces. Last autumn, the Flemish Old Master specialist Johnny van Haeften closed his Mayfair gallery after four decades to focus on private dealing, and in May the 20th-century British art dealer James Hyman made the decision to close after 20 years in Mayfair and St James’s following “a huge rise in the rent and an imminent increase in the rates”, he says. Hyman, who has previously shown at Frieze Masters, says he will continue to participate “in leading art fairs across the world”. read more