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8 Questions on the Future of Art Fairs
Answers by Stephanie Manasseh who challenges the scene with a new art fair model.
Career 22 May 2023

While we have been sharing some insider tips with you on how to hack VIP access into an art fair, today, we take things more seriously and have been talking to Stephanie Manasseh, founder and CEO of Accessible Art Fair Brussels (ACAF) and Co-director of Accessible Art Fair New York (ACAFNY) which she founded over 13 years ago in order to give artists without galleries a high end platform to show their work and to network – on their own.
With below 8 questions we try to dig deeper into the future of art fairs:
How should art fairs look like- name 3 things
More artists present – I think that there is so much to gain from meeting the artists behind the work. Before I started ACAF about 15 years ago,  I remember a visit to an art fair where no artists were there and I found it quite sad and un-inclusive of the very people who are at the centre of the art world! Without artists, there is no art industry!  It really baffled me so I decided to change that. It was very disruptive at the time but now people have embraced the concept and appreciate that this different model offers a very different experience in the art fair setting.
Prices clearly marked – In the years that I have been running ACAF, I have witnessed that not everyone is ready to engage to discuss prices with artists or with the gallery assistants.  For the sake of (more) transparency, I think it would only be a good thing!
More sponsorship – I say this really because I think that more brands and more artists would benefit from working together. Brands that I have worked with have really loved engaging with the artists and benefited long term aligning themselves with art.  This, in turn, can boost an artist’s career,  so everyone’s a winner!
Would a completely digital art fair would work out today
I don’t think anything can replace the physical contact between visitor and artwork and a digital image can never replace the feeling you get when you see a work of art with your own eyes.
Do we have too many art fairs?
No, I don’t think so.
I think with the closing of so many mid-size galleries in the last few years, art fairs have almost replaced the gallery experience by housing many galleries under one roof, as a one-stop shop.
Who should exhibit at fairs: the artists, the galleries?
I believe there is a place in the art world for both.
When I created ACAF (Accessible Art Fair) in 2006, I was the only one who was showcasing under-represented artists with no galleries. Since then, a few similar models have popped up. People want the experience of meeting the artists more as part of the 360 experience of buying art and a model like mine gives people that opportunity and I don’t think it replaces the traditional art fair model.
Are art fairs “too social” these days?
As an art fair director, it is a tricky balance to organise an opening that people want to come to not only for the free booze and the selfie opportunities :))  But it’s hard not to embrace the fact that bringing people together around art will be a fun and social experience.
How can we have art fairs more inclusive for a mass audience?
As an art fair director, I would have to say that I couldn’t scrap the fee to enter, just because of high costs to run the fair, however, I think that some fairs exaggerate by charging 50-100$ to enter.
Which are your top three fairs? 
My absolute favourite is TEFAF for the elegance, Art Basel for the vibe and Artissima for the art.
Why should we book tickets to Accessible art fair straight away? ACAF is coming back to Brussels for its 13 year. We give our visitors to meet the artists behind the work and collaborate with an incredible selection commitee, including Simon de Pury, Kenny Schachter, Shaune Arp and Sylvain Levy who hand pick the participating artists from the hundreds of applications we receive. The experience is therefore more of a boutique rather than a traditional art fair and it’s a chance for people to really see things they haven’t before because most artists are unrepresented.
ACAF_Selection committee 2019
Images via Instagram, TheArtGorgeous.com, Accessible Art Fair, Dirk Lambrechts

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