Earlier this week, we ran a story on an alluring new art fair that’s coming to Dallas in September. The Other Art Fair is the product of art world giant Saatchi Art, and it’s bringing a fair amount of hype to its Dallas debut. The event is billed as an inclusive, affordable alternative to formal markets like the Dallas Art Fair. However, upon closer inspection, it seems The Other Art Fair is not quite as accessible as it makes itself out to be–at least not for the artists.
The price of exhibiting at The Other Art Fair starts at $1,680, and the fair takes a 15 percent commission from all sales on top of that. That’s a little steep considering that the fair targets emerging, under-the-radar artists who sell their work for as low as $150. Saatchi makes the $150 number very obvious on its website and in promotional materials; the charge to artists is tucked away on an FAQ page.
“This art fair seems to be set up to be able to bring exposure to an artist but not bring economic value to the artist,” says artist and cultural advocate Andrew Kochie. “For independent artists like myself and many others locally in the region, it’s an art fair that none of us can be able to go to and be a part of.”
Kochie, who currently operates illegally out of a warehouse, has been speaking out about the need for affordable space for artists for a while now. He was on the steering committee for the Dallas Cultural Plan, which had creating a sustainable arts ecosystem as one of its primary goals.
While art fairs can be a good platform for artists, they’re also costly to put on. Still, Kochie is adamant that another business model could create an art fair that benefits everyone involved.
“A lot of those fees and a lot of overhead costs that get pushed off to the artists could be solved if we go to the city, if we go to our corporate sponsors,” he says. “Artists should be able to pay a nominal fee for their space that helps cover some of the cost. But taking an additional commission on top of their sales is not equitable whatsoever.”
Stacie Hernandez, another Dallas-based artist with a wealth of experience on the art fair circuit, was thrilled to hear that The Other Art Fair was coming to town. Her excitement didn’t last long. It wasn’t the fees that deterred her, though she says they’re a little high by industry standards.
“Being new and not having seen it before, you’re hesitant on the kind of money that you’re going to be spending on that,” she says. “However, Saatchi comes with a very good name. Their shows are very successful.”
Eager to get involved, Hernandez began corresponding with The Other Art Fair’s team about participating in the upcoming fair.
“What I wanted to know from them was, what do I get from it? What’s your success rate? I know you haven’t done it in Dallas but you’ve done it in New York and LA–what are your expectations?”
Suddenly, the conversation came to a halt.
“When I asked a few simple, very business savvy questions, I didn’t get a response,” she says. “That’s not good.”
Ultimately, Hernandez decided not to move forward with exhibiting in The Other Art Fair. She says she wishes there were more opportunities for artists in Dallas–something like the pop-ups surrounding Art Basel in Miami, which aren’t allowed during the Dallas Art Fair.
Kochie has been working on gathering a group of local artists to come up with a plan for an alternative art fair in town. He believes that outsiders, like Los Angeles-based Saatchi, fail to represent the local art scene in a meaningful way.
“If it was local-made and locally presented, the local arts and culture fabric knows all of these people who would support an event like this,” I think that an art fair of that caliber could definitely compete, if not be larger than the Dallas Art Fair, if the right people came together.”
He’s teamed up with a few other artists in the Design District to revive the Third Thursday Wine Walk at Dragon Street Galleries, a block party with potential to evolve into a mini art fair. They’re also working on getting a marketing flier listing local galleries in hotels among other pamphlets of things to do. These are small steps, but he hopes they can lead to a larger change.
“There’s some synergy and people are thinking outside of the box,” Kochie says. “We’ve gotta do something now because the next generation is not going to have anything if we keep selling out to people outside of Dallas.”