Debate: Art Fairs Are About Money Not Art

The debate ‘Art fairs are about money not art’ took place at the Saatchi Gallery on March 29th 2010.

Speakers: Matthew Slotover, Simon de Pury, Sir Norman Rosenthal, Jasper Joffe, Matthew Collings, Louisa Buck

Art fairs, scoff the critics, have become shopping malls for the super-rich. They are giant marketplaces for the wealthy to buy, invest and speculate on the commodity of art. Galleries pressure artists to churn out ‘safe’, sellable works, which are not so much looked at as bought in bulk. As the critic Jerry Saltz put it, ‘art fairs are perfect storms of money, marketability, and instant gratification’. Is this criticism justified? Or are art fairs in fact the perfect format for visitors to see art from all over the world which they wouldn’t otherwise see? And by allowing artists to show their work to potential buyers en masse are these shows a crucial lifeline for artists today?

This debate is part of a new initiative presented by the A Foundation called The Economy of the Gift, a boutique-scaled art fair which will take place in Liverpool, 9 April – 22 May 2010. It will present eight artists and eight galleries, and will explore the idea of value in a time of market crisis. The Economy of the Gift has been designed to build on the cultural legacy of Liverpool’s role as European Capital of Culture in 2008 and will be an annual affair.

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