From Iceland — Making an alternative art fair in Iceland

Making an alternative art fair in Iceland

Published May 20, 2011

An article about MESSA by its organiser

Making an alternative art fair in Iceland

An article about MESSA by its organiser

MESSA Teaser is a small-scale ‘teaser event’ in preparation for the first international visual art fair to be held in Iceland. It will open on May 20 and features a select group of Icelandic and international artists, as well as galleries and collaborative projects, who will be provided spaces to exhibit and sell their work and promote themselves to the artworld and the general public.

The art fair as THE most important international venue for promotion and sales of art today

Art fairs are temporary spaces where galleries and other participants of the art market bring contemporary artwork to promote and sell. The artwork can be purchased on site by the public, but is mainly sold to dealers, collectors, gallerists and other active participants of the art market.

Art fairs started emerging within the art market shortly after the millennium. The first Frieze Art Fair, for instance, was held in London in 2003. Following the success of Frieze—now one of the biggest international platforms of the contemporary artworld—it wasn’t long before other major cities around the world caught on. Art Basel in Switzerland, FIAC in Paris, France, the Armory Show in New York and Art Basel Miami in Florida, to name a few, were launched shortly afterward, and are now held annually.

Nowadays art fairs are one of the most important and effective tools of the art market. They are opening a new era in which participants of the art market have a one-time chance and an opportunity to explore, view, sell and buy contemporary art.

Iceland as the new contributor to the new era of the art market!?!
Iceland has a population of around 320.000. The nation’s vibrant and dynamic art scene is driven by a group of inspired artists from various backgrounds and influences who create innovative works and events for a dedicated audience. However, because of the relative infancy of the local art scene—as well as for geographic and economic reasons—Iceland has not been in a position in the past to open up to the international commercial art market in the same sense as neighbouring European countries. Therefore, access to the art market by way of Iceland is quite limited. Consequently, regional artists are at a disadvantage when it comes to promoting their work to an international audience, and the regional audience is not as likely to be exposed to the work of international artists.

This is a problem, especially when it comes to emerging contemporary artists trying to get footing in the larger art world. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, and it is one that could be solved by the implementation of MESSA—Iceland’s first alternative international art fair.

So what will MESSA bring to the art world?
The artworld is a tough and brutal place with many different participants who have various goals and aims, where the art works themselves sometimes get lost in the dynamic bustle. It can be tricky for the emerging individual or freelance visual artist to establish and maintain their careers, but it is important for them to keep up their profile. Art fairs are important in this process, as they can bring artists’ work to the attention of people from all over the world.

However, many artists find art fairs a weird environment. A traditional art fair showcases new and established artists to an international audience, and the artists exhibited are almost exclusively promoted by galleries, with no involvement from the artists. That being said, and bearing in mind the current economic landscape, the art market is suffering and the old model is no longer as effective a way for emerging artists to successfully promote themselves and their work. Now is the time for fresh, new ideas.

The fresh new idea is MESSA!
MESSA will not be a commercial art fair in this traditional sense. Instead, it will make a precedent for a new kind of an art fair. What will make MESSA exceptional is that special emphasis will be placed on promoting and exhibiting the work of emerging individual or freelance visual artists, enabling a crossover between the established and non-established.

Also, MESSA will not only focus on selling art and potentially making a profit. MESSA aims to be more of an art event, with the dual purpose of giving emerging artists the support, connections and knowledge they need to cultivate their future careers in the art world, while also giving the general public access to new and exciting talent and artwork to which they might not otherwise be exposed. MESSA will help to create a platform for networking, sharing, collaboration, connections and support within the visual arts.

A one-time opportunity to buy art. MESSA will set an example for the involvement of the general public within the art world. Who doesn’t want to light up their life with a beautiful work of art, or go around in the pub with their exceptional knowledge of contemporary art and the hottest thing today, or just add another rare piece to their collection?

So join us for MESSA Teaser on Saturday, May 21 2011 at KEX Hostel from 11.00–20.00 to nurture your eyes and fill your homes with interactive and beautiful contemporary art works.

Featured artists in MESSA Teaser include Anni Leppälä, Björk Viggósdóttir, Etienne de France, Harpa Dögg Kjartansdóttir, Katie Bethune-Leamen, Klængur Gunnarsson, Leó Stefánsson, Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir and more. Featured galleries in MESSA Teaser include 002 Gallery, The Lost Horse Gallery, and our guest of honour, The Corridor, the oldest running gallery in Reykjavík. Featured publications in MESSA Teaser include Endemi and Crymogea.

In addition, a symposium about the making of an alternative art fair in Iceland will be held on Monday, May 23, at the SIM house, at Hafnarstræti 16, in English and open to everyone!

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