A New Art Fair is Coming to an Unexpected New ‘Art Mecca’: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The Jackson Hole Fine Art Fair will launch its Inaugural edition next fall in Wyoming.

An archway made of elk antlers at the entrance to Jackson's town square. Courtesy of ShowHamptons.

The Cowboy State is getting its first major art fair.

Next fall, ShowHamptons, the event production company behind the recently-announced Philadelphia Fine Art Fair, will launch the inaugural edition of a second expo: the Jackson Hole Fine Art Fair (JHFAF) in Wyoming.

Set to take place September 12-15 next year, the fair will feature 55 galleries—a mix of local and national names—offering artworks that will likely range in price from $2,000 to $2 million. Also, like the Philadelphia Fair, the JHFAF is partnering with a financial institution to offer galleries lines of credit and bridge loans to be able to participate.

“Jackson Hole has long been an art mecca in the Rocky Mountain West,” Rick Friedman, the executive director of ShowHamptons, tells artnet News. “It’s the last untapped robust art market in the U.S. While many other fairs are attracting the same east and west coast collectors, few, if any, attract these valuable elite collectors from the mid-west region.”

The famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson. Courtesy of ShowHamptons.

A valley at the base of the Teton Mountains in the northwest corner of the state, Jackson Hole is known for being one of the country’s premier destinations for skiing and a southern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. The central town in the area, Jackson, is much smaller than most national art fair locales: Its population is 10,000 (roughly 150th the size of Philadelphia, for reference), though that number balloons considerably during the winter, as the skiers descend.

JHFAF will come just a smidge early to take advantage of the winter traffic, though it will coincide with another event—the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, an annual two-week-long series of events, from craft fairs to design conferences to the yearly Jackson Hole Art Auction.

It’s a gamble, without a doubt. Friedman is trying to capitalize on a pool of art lovers that, while smaller than others, boasts a higher average discretionary income than most.

The opening of a recent ShowHamptons fair. Courtesy of ShowHamptons.

“This is an elite and boutique fair. We see it as a ‘semi-private fair for the rich and famous,’” says Friedman, who once oversaw a similar venture, Art Aspen (which has since been sold to another owner). “We see this as a region with an affluent market, one that’s cultured, arts-savvy, and acquisition-oriented. Even if we have only 2,500 fairgoers, that group has the purchasing power tantamount to 25,000 art lovers at other fairs.”

At the same time, Friedman says he will also be careful not to compromise the small town quaintness and Western charm of the area. It’s a delicate balancing act, putting on a fair with local flair and national renown.

“There is no doubt that Wyoming, or the larger Rocky Mountain region, has an Old West sensibility,” he says. “We will be offering important artworks in this genre. But since Jackson Hole is uniquely where ‘frontier meets contemporary,’ we will also expand to include more of the ‘New West,’ as well as Southwest art, and East Coast post-war and contemporary art genres.”

“With the proliferation of so many art fairs in the nation today,” Friedman notes, “an intimate, highly focused, high-end event with serious buyers is what we need. It will be a welcome alternative.”

The Jackson Hole Fine Art Fair will take place September 12-15 at the Snow King Sports and Events Center in Jackson, Wyoming.  

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