Trends Fairs Market USA

Satellite fairs flock to Frieze New York

A record number of smaller events is taking place to coincide with the main attraction

Following the crowd? “Les Lalanne on Park Avenue”, which was co-organised by Paul Kasmin Gallery in 2009

New York. Sixteen subsidiary fairs with more than 400 participating galleries are taking place at the same time as Frieze New York this year. The gravitational pull of the fair on Randall’s Island, now in its third edition, the Impressionist and Modern auctions taking place before, and the contemporary sales after, have helped to turn the week ahead into New York’s largest commercial event, overtaking Armory Week in March. Five satellite events—Pulse, Salon Zürcher, the Outsider Art Fair, Pool and Verge—have moved from different times of year.

“May in New York is becoming more and more important,” says Nick Korniloff, the director of the fair production company Art Miami LLC, which is launching the Downtown Modern and contemporary art fair (8-11 May) at the 69th Regiment Armory in the Flatiron district.

At its peak in 2011, Armory Arts Week also had 16 fairs, including the eponymous Armory Show. That figure dropped to eight in 2013, the year after Frieze New York launched (with four satellites in tow). This year, the total number of Armory Week fairs dipped to seven, while Frieze Week events have doubled from eight.

This shift may seem counterintuitive. The 15-year-old Armory Show still attracts more crowds, and welcomed an estimated 60,000 people this year—33% more than Frieze New York last year. Some maintain that sales are stronger during Armory Week because “New Yorkers are accustomed to buying art then”, says the dealer Ed Winkleman, a co-founder of the Moving Image fair, which took place in March.

The Armory Show is also more supportive of corollary events, satellite fair organisers say. The veteran fair mentions satellites in its promotional material and collaborates with them on programming. Frieze New York, on the other hand, “does not co-ordinate downwards, so no, there is no exchange of any sort”, says the dealer Magda Sawon, who co-organises the fair Seven (2-11 May).

In the art world, however, friendliness is no match for cool. Armory Week had no new satellites this year, whereas five have opted to launch during Frieze New York. “We visited fairs happening at both times of year, but in the end, it was the energy and sense of excitement that Frieze brings that won us over,” say Brian Whiteley and Matthew Eck, the founders of the contemporary art fair Select, which makes its debut in Chelsea this week (8-11 May) after three years in Miami.

The Armory Show may have more visitors, but satellites are seeking the perceived quality of Frieze devotees. “The audience for the March fairs seems much more regional,” Korniloff says. Heather Hubbs, the director of New York's New Art Dealers Alliance (Nada) fair (9-11 May), says that “we’ve noticed more Europeans in town in May”, thanks to Frieze’s international following and the twice yearly ­Impressionist, Modern and contemporary auctions in New York.

Can all these events survive? One veteran fair organiser suggests that the Armory Show change its own dates to run alongside Frieze New York, as Art Miami did with Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007. But Miami, which sustains more than 15 satellites, “is a global anomaly—I’m doubtful it could be recreated in New York”, Korniloff says. “Collectors carve that week out in Miami. In New York, they’re still working—they’re on the phone to their accountants and in board meetings.”

“If satellite fairs are increasing, it must mean that there is a demand, although that is often driven more by galleries than collectors,” says Laura Mitterrand, the director of the Independent fair, which took place in March. Korniloff says he received more than 200 applications for 51 spaces at the new Downtown Fair.

Indeed, the half-dozen collectors and advisers contacted by The Art Newspaper plan to attend only one or two satellite events during Frieze New York, if any. The Belgian collector Alain Servais, who intends to visit Nada and Seven as well as the main fair, describes satellites as “side dishes if one is really hungry”.

More than ever before, it seems that the decision to hold a satellite fair requires a leap of faith—in both one’s ability to stand out and in the depth of the market. “The volume reflects the aspirational belief that New York is still the centre of the art world, day-to-day costs be damned,” says the art adviser Liz Parks, who plans to attend Nada.

All the satellites aspire to attract boldface names, but locals and existing clients remain their bread and butter. “We haven’t seen the same level of international travel since the recession,” says Michael Workman, the founder of Verge, which moved from March to May in 2012. This means that “more satellite fairs is not always better, because you’re just competing with a smaller pool of resident locals”. His team is now considering moving the fair back to Armory Week. “Frieze is feeling a little crowded,” he says.

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