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"The Art Fair Age" by Paco Barragán

We have entered the age of art fairs – That is the proclamation of the book "The Art Fair Age" by its author Paco Barragán, an independent curator living in Madrid.

Through his book, Barragán carries out an economic and sociologic analysis of this "age of art fairs." Are there too many art fairs? The author answers that question by referring to the market and its players: the current developments are a result of the market, and that is – like globalisation – neither good nor bad, but what we do as a consequence of it.

According to Barragáns theory, a transformation of art fairs is currently taking place, now moving towards an "urban entertainment center," which provides "leisure, commerce and novelty." The visitor is not (only) buying art but an “experience.” Barragán describes a way in which art fairs need to change and position themselves in order to survive the competition, which is becoming stronger and stronger.

The author analyses the collectors as protagonists of the art fairs and develops analogue to Abraham Maslows’ "Hierarchy of Human Needs" a self-styled "Collectors Motivation Pyramid" which starts at its base with motivation for “prestige and social recognition” and peaks with the satisfaction of aesthetic and intellectual needs.

Barragán makes us aware that art fairs and biennials have been used everlastingly as "branding tools" – not only for companies which sponsor the events, but especially for "city marketeers" which up until now, are putting previously unnoticed cities on the global (art)map. 

For his analyses, Paco Barragán generates many references and relations (e.g. to Boltanski & Eve Chiapello or Ridderstrale & Nordström), and therefore often operates with quotations and links, which he lists meticulously in a scientific manner. Some background knowledge by the reader is definitely an advantage to understanding the connections in total depth.

"The Art Fair Age" inspires us to contemplate: those who are themselves working in the art business will question their opinion with that of Barragán’s; collectors can look at the multilayered world of art fairs and biennials from a new perspective. Absolutely worth reading is the preface by Amanda Coulson und Michele Robecchi which provides a wonderfully fresh view on the discussed topics. A well-rounded book with depth.

The Art Fair Age
Authors: Paco Barragán. Prefaces by Amanda Coulson and Michele Robecchi
Format: 15,5 x 23 cm
Pages: 200
Binding: paperback
Illustrations: 68 illustrations in b/w
Year: 2008
Edition: English / Spanish
ISBN 978-88-8158-682-0