FairsGalleries 20-10-2016

YIA#7: How to succeed as a mid-tier art fair in a slowing market

In the last decade, the number of international art fairs has quadrupled, a result of long years of uninterrupted growth in the art market.

In 2016, more than 260 international fairs are being delivered alongside reports (TEFAF, Artprice) of a market beginning to contract. In a generally unfavourable economic context, the international art fair is in oversupply but remains a critical means for increasingly pressured galleries to stay relevant and engaged in the global art market.

The cancellations of Slick Art Fair (Paris), Art16 (London) and Officielle (Paris) highlights challenges specific to contemporary art’s middle market. Undeterred by market forecasts, the Young International Artists Art Fair (YIA) opens its seventh edition tomorrow at the Carreau du Temple in Paris’ Marais district.

The economy can be an easy scapegoat when a fair doesn’t succeed according to YIA’s creator-director Romain Tichit. “I created my fair with €20 and five years later I have three fairs in Europe, a larger budget and a team of ten” he says.

Volée Hélicoïdale by Cyril Zarcone at Crédit Municipal de Paris is part of the YIA#07 ‘Hors de Murs parcours’. Image courtesy of Galerie Eric Mouchet

YIA#07 presents an international selection of 65 galleries, a series of talks, a space dedicated to drawings, a YIA Art Fair award and a Hors Les Murs program in the Marais at The Picasso Museum, Centre Pompidou and Les Archive Nationales among others.

The number of participating galleries at YIA is capped at 65 for a reason. “65 is familial, it gives collectors the possibility, in the hours of the day, to see everything and come back to the booth” explains Tichit.

Keeping the size of the fair intimate is one of the several reasons why galleries like working with YIA, followed by strong partnerships with galleries and careful, coherent selection.

“When you go into an art fair as a gallery you can accept many things, but not to be next to very bad quality galleries”, says Bertrand Scholler of Paris’ Galerie 55Bellechase, “At YIA they are very serious, 90% of galleries are very good and the 10% that are not very good are mostly very young galleries that you can see can prove to have potential” he says.

Held during the prestigious Parisian (FIAC), YIA is not the only smaller satellite fair making noise, despite the aforementioned cancellations of Slick and Officielle who traditionally also shared the week. Paris Internationale’s second edition is also underway and has already accrued somewhat a cult following, as well as the almost unanimous praise of the international press.

Tichit’s objective is for YIA is nontheless to be seen amongst the best of international art fairs. For him, that means selecting and contacting galleries all year round to have the best artists present at his fair. Galleries such as Art Lab Africa, whose inaugural participation in YIA#7 is also their first exhibition in Paris and the first time that East African artists Longinos Nagila, David Thuku and Onyis Martin will be shown in France.

For Art Lab Africa YIA#07 is an opportunity to create new dialogues with curators, collectors, museums and cultural producers. Objects of my Desire by Longinos Nagila. Image courtesy of Art Lab Africa.

Further endearing him to mid-tier galleries and artists, Tichit is acutely aware of the struggles faced by emerging galleries. In addition to upping the ante on promoting galleries through social media this year, YIA will launch a new digital platform during the fair this week. “The platform is not designed for business or e-commerce, but to create a more direct contact between galleries and collectors throughout the year.” he explains.

In 2015, 50% of sales at YIA#06 were between €1500-€7000, 19% from €10,000 to €50,000 and 5% at €50,000-€120,000. For Eric Mouchet, director of young Galerie Eric Mouchet, YIA is a good alternative for emerging galleries whose first choice would have been FIAC but are too young, not enough well-known or that can’t afford it.

“The quality of the works is YIA’s greatest strength of course, but at a time when there are fairs everywhere in the city YIA also has a beautiful location with well presented booths that allow us to show the works in the best light possible” says Mouchet.

Sylvain Polony’s exhibits new works at YIA#07, one of four artists invited artists. All works are ‘sans titres’. Image courtesy of Sylvain Polony.

Perhaps the greatest strength of YIA is an ethos of putting the artists first. YIA#07 continues the tradition of a dedicated non-profit space where artists and young galleries who may struggle to pay for a booth are exhibited alongside more established galleries from Tokyo, Berlin, Paris...

“The practice of inviting artists is extremely generous and quite specific to YIA” says emerging Paris-born artist Sylvain Polony, invited to exhibit at YIA#07, “they have left me totally free to exhibit what I want, I’m invited so I can take a risk and present a very big painting” says Polony.

Milan-based gallery Wunderkammern returns to YIA for a third year, unconcerned by a slowing market affecting the success of YIA#07.  “We believe the art market follows quality and professionalism” states the gallery’s co-director Giuseppe Ottavianelli.

Following YIA#07 in Paris, 2017 will see a YIA#08 in Maastricht and a YIA#09 in Brussels. Upcoming editions of the fair are already being planned in Detroit, Malaga, Lisbon, Prague and Bucharest.

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