Art Market

Auctions vs. Art Fairs: Behind the Battle for Your $$$

Auctions vs. Art Fairs: Behind the Battle for Your $$$


March in New York is a magical time for collectors, when the winter thaw reveals a glittering souk of art stretching across Manhattan. Art fairs, with the Armory Show leading the way, unroll aisle after aisle of paintings, sculptures, and less tangible marvels of human creativity, just waiting to be bought. The auctioneers crack their knuckles to begin the season with the tender, lower-priced works of their introductory contemporary sales. The galleries unveil the year’s first crop of major shows, angling to capture the international buyers as they sweep in like trout to feed on the new hatch.

So, with all these offerings, where the @%&* are you supposed to spend your money? That’s the thorny question that collectors have to make peace with, and the fairs and auction houses are engaged in furious combat to answer it for them. Both offer eye-saucering selections of art, both are a lot of fun (especially if you’re flush), and both are competing for your attention. It can create a paradox of choice.

Galleries, with their white-cube exclusivity and narrow selections of specialized wares, are known quantities. To help assess the various merits of the bigger games in town, we separately spoke to Ben Genocchio, the former editor of Artnet and now director of the Armory Show, and Sara Friedlander, head of Christie’s evening sales, about why collectors should spend their hard-won, ill-gotten, or inherited wealth with them. 

The Armory Show’s Ben Genocchio on Why Fairs Are a “More Rewarding Experience” Than Auctions


Christie’s Sara Friedlander on Why Auctions Are More Transparent Than Art Fairs


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