Galleries in the Global World
I’ve just returned from London, a true crossroads of the world (to say the least) and a center for global markets of finance, commerce—and art. Like many visitors, I strolled parks and avenues, walked along the Thames, and took in several museums—from the National Gallery to the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. Like many others involved with contemporary art, I attended Frieze and Frieze Masters. I also went to London galleries.
Collecting art, which was once the pursuit of a smaller population of people and a smaller number of museums, has become far more common. The exponential expansion of the art market, due to the broad digital distribution of images and information, as well as concentrations of wealth in emerging economies, has led to a true change in the way that people see and acquire art. Globalization of art (and all kinds of related information) has drawn many new people who may not have the same objectives as the traditional collector. The art fair is now a primary source for them.
The growth of the market is, of course, a welcome circumstance for artists, and it should be for art dealers. After all, it is the dealers who support the system more than any other group—an observation that was echoed in an interview with the organizer of the Frieze art fair, Matthew Slotover. This preeminent art fair, which began in 2003, gives global visitors the chance to see dozens of galleries under one roof (or tent, as the case may be) and the brilliant organizer sums it up by saying, “One of these reasons is that people have less time than they used to, so they’re generally people who work and travel a lot and they don’t have as much time to visit galleries as they used to, so art fairs are very convenient…”
On the other hand, however, one must recognize the value of galleries in the larger ecosystem. It’s a topic that was addressed eloquently in a recent op-ed piece written by Dorsey Waxter, president of the Art Dealers Association of America, published in the Blouin Art Info. I would suggest that anyone interested in art and art galleries read the article, and note the words of Ms. Waxter, “I have tried to imagine a world where there were no art dealers and galleries and what that would be like. Fortunately I cannot. All sectors of the art world are tied to one another, but it seems to me that galleries matter the most. Their impact on artists and their influence in the arts community is irreplaceable.”