As the name suggests, Future Fair was conceived as a newfangled type of fair, modeled more closely on a cooperative: profits are shared, finances are transparent, and what is good for the individual is good for the collective.
It’s a nice idea, but in a landscape dominated by mega-fairs that function more like large supermarkets, the long-term sustainability of this model remains an open question. And meIt’s one that hangs over the Starrett-Lehigh building in New York this week as the Future Fair, founded by Rachel Mijares Fick and Rebeca Laliberte, is finally holding its first personal edition. (The fair was originally supposed to debut last year, but the pandemic put the event online.)
Will this experiment actually work?
Among the 34 exhibiting galleries – 25 percent of them owned by People of Color and 50 percent owned by women – first impressions are optimistic, even if actual sales have been sluggish so far. (After a VIP day, the fair opened to the public today.)
“It’s been wonderful so far,” said Russell Tyler, a gallery-owner painter who opened the Sunny NY room earlier this year. “People discover the works of the artists. The main goal is to find people who are interested in the work, even if they are not buying anything now. “
As for events like this, Future Fair is on the smaller side, which can deserve ticks in both the pros and cons columns. The modest size of the fair offers a welcome change from the overcrowded armories and friezes of the world, but also limits what it has to offer. After a few stalls turn the corner and you will be surprised to suddenly find yourself at the exit door – no more art.
“I think it’s great that it’s small,” said New York retailer Asya Geisberg, noting that the city has long needed a more modest prestige fair. “As a spectator you get so much more.”
But “quality before quantity” has been the mantra of the fair since its inception, and there is a lot to like here. Ojo Ayotunde’s thoughtful, Noah Davis-esque self-portraits at Nyama Fine Art (Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts) come to mind, as do Amie Cunat’s graphic botanical paintings at the Dinner Gallery, New York. A joint presentation of trippy paintings by Jacopo Pagin and sardonic ceramics by Cary Leibowitz at New Discretions (New York) offers one of the better double victories at the Expo.
Funnily enough, the show’s profit-sharing model doesn’t seem to have been a big draw for retailers. “I paid little attention to it, ”said John Pollard, Richmond, Virginia founder, ADA gallery. As the owner of a small gallery in a small market, Pollard sales are not the aim of the fair; it’s more about meeting potential collectors.
“For me, selling is a consideration, but it’s not the only consideration,” repeated Pollards Stand colleague Asya Geisberg. “For me, it’s more about what this fair does, building an audience and an idea.”
Geisberg said that the sense of community and the collaboration was the great attraction for her. “As with everything in life, you put in more, you get more.”
“I don’t know if there will be a win this year, but it’s a nice gesture,” said Paolo Oxoa, founder of Beacon, New York’s Mother Gallery. (Oxoa is also opening a new location in Tribeca later this month.) “And because we’ve invested this way, they’re also telling us a lot of their thoughts and plans, their numbers – information that most trade shows keep to themselves.” . “
For Oxoa, which was one of the first dealers to register at the fair before the health crisis, this personal touch was an important reason why it stayed loyal to the fair.
“[The founders] said they would do these things, and during the pandemic that was such a challenging time, they kept those promises. It means a lot to me, ”said Oxoa. “I am proud to be here.”
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