Market News

A Brief Look at the High—and Wildly Disparate—Prices Art Fairs Charge for Admission

The thrumming aisles at Frieze Los Angeles on Thursday, February 21.

ANDREW RUSSETH/ARTNEWS

Every once in a while, friends from outside the art industry ask me if it’s worth buying a ticket to such-and-such art fair. Immediately, I wince. Art fairs have their pleasures—they overflow with art, for one—but they are not cheap. (As a card-carrying member of the press, I never pay.) My typical counsel: If you have not been to one, go for it. Otherwise, and especially if you live in a major metropolis, go visit the scores of galleries that are throwing open their doors free to the public five days a week. You will have a much better time, and the cocktail you enjoy at the end will be much more affordable.

Frieze Los Angeles, which closed on Sunday, once again got me thinking about the high price of fair tickets. It was a pretty small event, with just 70 galleries, and tickets were $50, meaning that—from a certain bizarre vantage point, but bear with me—visitors were paying about $0.71 per exhibitor. In comparison, tickets for Art Basel Miami Beach were also $50 last year, but that blowout features 268 galleries, which comes out to about $0.19 per exhibitor on offer. Pondering this, I began to imagine a world where you paid to enter individual booths. How many art-fair booths would you shell out $0.19 to see? How about $0.71?

Of course, all fairs, including Miami Basel and Frieze L.A., come with a panoply of other things to see and experience (like the Paramount Studios backlot in the case of Frieze), but it is interesting to be reminded that fair ticket prices often have no clear relation to either the quantity or quality of the art on offer.

Are ticket prices too high? In one sense: of course. Most of the big fairs have ticket prices higher than any museum in the United States. That said, tickets for Frieze Los Angeles sold out before it even opened, so its organizers presumably could have juiced its ticket price even more.

There’s a lot of art out there and many different ways to see it. Choose wisely. Below is a brief guide to tickets for 11 recent and upcoming fairs, showing the wide range of prices and how they break down per exhibitor. (The listed prices are for one adult during standard visiting hours, before fees and taxes.)

ADAA Art Show 2019
Ticket: $25
Exhibitors: 72
Price per gallery: ~$0.35

ARCO Madrid 2018
Ticket: €20 ($24.63 at the time)
Exhibitors: 211
Price per gallery: ~$0.12

Armory Show 2019
Ticket: $52.00
Exhibitors: 194
Price per gallery: ~$0.27

Art Basel in Switzerland 2018
Ticket: CHF 50 ($50.29 at the time)
Exhibitors: 293
Price per gallery: ~$.17

Art Basel Miami Beach 2018
Ticket: $50
Exhibitors: 268
Price per gallery: ~$0.19

Frieze New York 2018
Ticket: $48
Exhibitors: 193
Price per gallery: ~$0.25

Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2018
Ticket: £64.50 ($84.81)
Exhibitors: ~290
Price per gallery: ~$0.29

Frieze Los Angeles 2019
Ticket: $50
Exhibitors: 70
Price per gallery: ~$0.71

Independent New York 2019
Ticket: $29
Exhibitors: 65
Price per gallery: ~$0.45

2018 NADA Miami
Ticket: $20
Exhibitors: 125
Price per gallery: ~$0.16

2019 Outsider Art Fair New York
Ticket: $25
Exhibitors: 65
Price per gallery: ~$0.38

Copyright 2019, Art Media ARTNEWS, llc. 110 Greene Street, 2nd Fl., New York, N.Y. 10012. All rights reserved.