London’s Art16 Fair Cancels 2017 Edition

The art fair is rethinking its overall concept and dates.

Art14, opening night. Photo ©Written Light.
Art14, opening night. Photo ©Written Light.

Art16, the art fair hosted in London’s Olympia, has announced that it won’t be organizing a 2017 edition.

The decision was communicated to exhibitors on August 23, and a statement now graces the home page of the fair’s website:

The organisers of Art16 have decided that there will be no edition of the fair in 2017. We are now working with both galleries and collectors in order to develop a much enhanced fair going forward and further announcements will be made in the coming months.

It seems that, rather than a permanent cancellation, the fair is taking a hiatus to rethink its scope and concept, with hopes to return to London’s busy art fair calendar in 2018.

The Pearl Lam stand at Art16 Photo: courtesy Pearl Lam

The Pearl Lam stand at Art16 Photo courtesy Pearl Lam.

“We are now in the process of reviewing the overall concept of the fair as well as the May dates. We are looking to open our new fair in the first part of 2018, which will be an earlier slot in the year,” Charles Ross, managing director of Art Fairs London Ltd, the company that organizes the fair, told artnet News via email.

But what went wrong for the ambitious art fair? A number of reasons could be factored in for its lackluster results—first and foremost, its branding. A name that changes with every edition to reflect the year fails to create a recognizable brand, not to mention confuse the public (how does one refer to the fair in general?).

Other possible flaws might include the fair’s dates—with May being an extremely competitive month in the international art calendar—as well as its medium-to-large size. Tellingly, from showcasing almost 180 galleries in 2014, the 2016 edition had already reduced exhibitor numbers to 100 under the roof of London’s Grand Hall Olympia.

Art14, opening night © Written Light

Art14, opening night. Photo ©Written Light.

The fair’s ethos, a global outlook that brought galleries from all over to world to London rather than the usual names found at Frieze, was a strong, smart move. Yet, a 100 plus exhibitor fair full of unrecognizable names might have proven a bit too challenging for busy collectors.

In that sense, the former head of development of Art14, Niru Ratnam, has possibly taken the fair’s best asset and tweaked it into a much more attractive and tightly curated product: START art fair, devoted to a global approach too, but implemented on a more user-friendly scale and location. With around 50 international galleries, the fair is hosted in the palatial Saatchi Gallery, right at the heart of Chelsea.

Kate BryanPhoto: Art15

Kate Bryan was the director of Art15. Photo courtesy Art15.

The rapid turnover of directors—Stephanie Dieckvoss for Art13 and Art14, Kate Bryan for Art15, and Nathan Clements-Gillespie for Art16, making it almost a new director with each edition—spoke volumes of a fair struggling to find a solid direction, and to deliver both sales and critical recognition. Time will tell what its organizers, Art Fairs London Ltd, decide in the coming months.


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