A new art and design fair is launching in Brooklyn this May with a business model that completely re-thinks the traditional trade fair format.
The fair, called Object & Thing, charges participants a commission on sales, rather than an up-front fee to rent a booth. And there are no booths. Instead, galleries each contribute between five and 10 works to be displayed across the fair’s venue, 99 Scott, a 5,000-square-foot Bushwick event space designed by architect Rafael de Cardeñas. All sales are handled by fair staff rather than the gallery’s, while an online platform allows collectors to buy works remotely.
The idea is the brainchild of the former artistic director of Frieze Art Fairs for the Americas and Asia, Abby Bangser. “We’re trying to break down some of the hierarchies that often exist between art and design, and display works of art and works of design together,” she told artnet News. “We might put one object on top of another, or group works by color. We’re not looking at typical classifications.”
The fair comes at a time when small and mid-sized galleries are facing unprecedented financial pressures, due in part to the rising costs and risks associated with participating in art fairs.
Bangser hopes to preserve for these galleries the community that comes from participating in fairs, but without the exorbitant costs. “A fair is a gathering place for people who care about art and who want to be part of the conversation,” she said. But whereas Frieze New York has more than 200 exhibitors, Object & Thing will have around 30, “and we don’t have any of the types of costs that someone would have in participating in something like Frieze,” she said. (Bangser declined to disclose how much of a commission the fair would take from sales.)
So far, prominent exhibitors such as Blum & Poe, Mendes Wood DM, and Salon 94 Design have all signed up.
Of course if the galleries aren’t paying fees up front like they do at larger fairs, it’s Bangser who assumes the financial risk. (She says she is funding the first edition herself, without outside investment.)
“We really believe that the sales are going to be successful,” she said. “Collectors have told me there’s a lack of art and design being offered together, so there’s a real desire to see and buy these things, which makes us think it will work out.”
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