Looking for the Next Big Art Star? A New Fair Will Bring Artists Who Are Fresh Out of Art School to New York

The fair is being produced by Art Market Productions.

The latest entry to the New York art fair scene is the MFA Fair, which looks to give emerging artists a leg up as they exit grad school. The novel event is slated to make its debut at Pier 36 in Lower Manhattan this fall, November 14–17, courtesy of Art Market Productions. (This week, the company will run Art on Paper out of the same venue.)

The MFA Fair is the brainchild of James Salomon, who predicts that 55 to 65 schools will sign on for the inaugural outing. Participation (paid for by the schools) costs between $10,000 and $20,000, and the works for sale will likely be in the $1,000 to $5,000 range—extremely affordable by art fair standards.

“We realize how hard it can be for emerging artists,” Salomon tells artnet News. “Dealers have their own agendas, audiences have short attention spans, and artists have to be thick-skinned and resilient. In the MFA fair, grads will have their work discovered by a cross-industry audience of dealers and curators, but they will also be able to forge direct relationships with collectors.”

Although dealers and collectors often scour MFA thesis exhibitions for promising talent, the fair enables them to see work by students from dozens of schools, including those outside urban centers and art-market hubs, in one fell swoop. Collectors will be taking a chance on untested talent, but also have the opportunity to discover the art stars of the future before their markets explode. Meanwhile, art schools can showcase their approaches to prospective students, just as a college fair might.

Butler Library at Columbia University’s Campus. Courtesy of Columbia University.

Early confirmed schools to join the line-up are the Columbia University School of the Arts, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the New York Academy of Art, the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, the VCUarts at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

The fair is being produced on a $1 million budget and will feature programming including live podcasts organized by Duncan MacKenzie, founder of Bad at Sports.

At a time when many complain that art fairs have oversaturated the market, why add a new one to the mix? Fair cofounder and Art Market Productions managing partner Max Fishko is betting on the novelty factor.

“It’s an opportunity for the industry and the public to see what’s coming next from the best graduate programs in the world,” he says. “It has never been done before, it’s not happening anywhere else. If that isn’t worth traveling for, then I don’t know what is.”

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