When visiting cities, most travelers tend to hit the famous sights with the intention of being able to say, “been there, seen that.” However, most large cities, and some smaller ones, have some of the most beautiful and unique sights in the world, but only for a very limited time. Art fairs have long been used to draw in international visitors, generate revenue, and promote new art and artists. Along with seeing some great art, the fairs are usually in famous or showy locales that are sure to be visual feasts.
The Big Apple hosts several large art fairs each year. One of the most well-known is The Armory Show, set not in an armory, but on Pier 94, jutting out into the Hudson River. Another famous fair is the ADAA Art Show which is, in fact, set in a still-functional armory on Park Avenue.
Frieze Art Fair, across the Pond, occupies London’s Regent Park each October, includes a separate sculpture park, and exhibits over 150 galleries from around the globe. Not to be outdone, Paris hosts its own pièce de résistance in October. FIAC is held in the most austere of artistic settings: Le Grand Palais, at the Louvre. In terms of sheer size, however, nothing can compete with the Biennale. Occurring every two years and lasting six months in Venice, the Biennale is an epic international exhibition with a building dedicated to each country’s representative artists.
In June, over 300 galleries and art dealers converge to show at ArtBasel in the Swiss cultural center of, you guessed it, Basel. Basel’s great tram system and beautiful museums make it the perfect city for the nearly 40-year-old event. If the whole thing seems a bit uptight, there is always ArtBasel-Miami. Located right in the heart of Miami Beach, this fair is more of a festival, with parties and after-parties that complement an evening of culture.
Perhaps the most respected fair in the world is not in one of these renowned bastions of sophistication, but in Maastricht, somewhat lesser-known—and less accessible—than some of its other European counterparts. TEFAF Maastricht is a fair organized by art dealers for art dealers, and while the venue may be less breathtaking than some others, each piece of art shown in the exhibition is vetted to pass quality standards. So many visitors attended TEFAF in 2006 that the fair raised admission to €55 to try to prevent over-crowding. Regardless of the hike, 70,000 people still attended in 2007.
Museums are always a popular sight when traveling. However, no matter where or when you travel, there is likely to be a fair going on that could add a little bit of excitement to your travel, if not a new sculpture to your mantel.