By: Brooke Chenoweth
The Affordable Art Fair brings the work of thousands of artists to Hong Kong each year. The fair itself runs over one massive weekend, but there are months of preparation beforehand to make it the amazing event that it is. We sat down with Fair Director Stephanie Kelly to find out what goes on behind-the-scenes.
Where do you start when the time comes to plan the next fair?
Each fair begins with a blank floor plan and an aim to create a fun, fresh, inspiring and friendly space where people can fall in love with art. We spend most of the year poring over customer insights, listening to galleries, visiting artists, engaging partners, negotiating with suppliers and meticulously planning the four-day event. Once onsite at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, I’m always amazed that within two days our talented builders and contractors turn our creative ideas and 2D floor-plan into a little village, then our galleries move in with thousands of artworks, and our partners bring to life all their creative ideas – and, finally, we welcome 25,000 visitors through our doors.
How many people are involved in putting it all together?
So many voices shape and evolve the fair. Our visitors are highly engaged and last year we received over 1,500 surveys with feedback on what they love, along with suggestions on how to improve the fair. Collaboration is key and we are lucky enough to work with exceptional and talented education partners including M+, TEDxWanChai, Alter-modernists, and Sovereign Art Foundation to support our interactive education programme. Gallerists will spend over six months planning for the fair, working with their artists to create fresh artworks to bring to Hong Kong, organising shipping and designing their stands to best present the artwork. Affordable Art Fair is the world’s most popular art fair with nearly a quarter of a million visitors attending 14 fairs in 10 different cities. Each country has a small but passionate team and to ensure we can go the extra mile for our visitors, galleries and partners we also recruit a team of smiling fair assistants.
How many exhibitors return to the fair each year?
Our fifth edition in May 2017 will showcase 110 galleries from around the world with a balance of around two-thirds returning galleries and the rest fresh new galleries. Affordable Art Fair has a strong network of “family” galleries that travel around the world to promote their artists including Quantum (UK), Retrospect (AUS), Envie d’Art (FR), Barnadas Huang (SG), Palma Arte (IT), RHG NYC (US) and TAG Fine Art (UK), many of whom have exhibited in Hong Kong for all five years. There are also a number of new exciting Hong Kong galleries including La Vu and Geneyclee who are great additions to the local art scene.
What’s the last-minute lead up to the fair like?
The weeks and days leading up to the fair are completely hectic but also exhilarating because all of our team members pitch in with so many different things. Amongst our long list of things to do, we execute the marketing campaign, finalise all partner details, get ready to welcome our galleries and ensure everyone is well briefed. We try to live by our head honcho Will Ramsay’s military motto known as the “7Ps”: prior preparation and planning prevents piss-poor performance!
2017 Affordable Art Fair: 19–21 May
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai | affordableartfair. com
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