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Art Fairs Explained (Advanced)

According to the  ARTSY EDITORIAL of 13 June 2016, in 2015, art fairs generated an estimated $12.7 billion in profits for exhibiting galleries. But why do collectors attend fairs in droves? And what’s behind their rapid international proliferation? The video in today’s lesson tracks how the art fair has transformed from a trade show into a platform where all aspects of the art market—galleries, collectors, curators, and artists—converge, and why they keep coming back. Fair directors and art-world influencers like Noah Horowitz, Matthew Slotover, Elmgreen & Dragset, Michele Maccarone, Josh Baer, and Sarah Thornton all provide their insights.

  Vocabulary, Idioms & Expressions

  • to attend something in droves: for many many people to attend something
  • Everyone is buying into the idea: people believe the idea to be true
  • When an idea takes off / catches on: when the idea become successful / popular
  • far flung art fair: an art fair that is in an obscure location


What do you think about this statement?

“Art Fairs push artists to produce, not to create”

Record your answer into your smart phone and listen back. Guaranteed you’ll find many mistakes you can fix yourself!


Feel free to play this video a few times. It is fast and information packed but there are auto generated subtitles available if you get really stuck – they aren’t perfect but they’ll help


  1. What advantages do Art Fairs bring? (0:05, 0:56 & 2:35)
  2. What negative effects do Art Fairs have on artists? (0:58)
  3. Within what time range did 8 million people attend art fairs? (1:08)
  4. In the beginning, what made Art fairs more like trade shows? (1:11)
  5. Who started them and why? (1:14)
  6. At which event did the modern concept of the Art Fair take off? (1:25)
  7. What has contributed to the exorbitant prices paid by galleries to attend an Art Fair? (1:39)
  8. What makes Art Fairs particularly important for Art Dealers? (2:00)
  9. What dilemma do art fairs cause for artists? (2:20)
  10. When is an Art Fair a success for a gallery? (2:36)

Writing Task

Here is a classic IELTS style essay. Try it out and post your response in the comments box below the Listening Answers

The government’s investment in arts, music and theatre is a waste of money. Governments should invest these funds in public services instead.

To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Remember, with ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree’ questions, you do not have to either agree or disagree with the given statement.

There are 3 ways you can tackle (approach) this essay:

  1. You completely agree (provide 2 ideas that strengthen the statement)
  2. You completely disagree (provide 2 ideas that weaken the statement)
  3. You agree or disagree partly (provide 1 idea that strengthens the statement and 1 idea that weakens it)

After you’ve decided your opinion, generate 2-3 supporting points for it. Supporting points are what you’d put after expressions like these:

What I mean is….
This can lead to …..
In fact..
In reality, it is found that,..

Good Luck with this essay!!



Listening Answers

  1. They connect galleries, buyers, dealers and people who just want to see art normally disconnected by geography. They also present the opportunity of seeing a large volume of art under one roof. Art galleries can establish themselves at art fairs.
  2. Artists who present at art fairs loose their sense of individuality and uniqueness as these fairs make them realise how they just one of very many other artists
  3. From 2011 – 2015
  4. Originally art fairs where only for art dealers which made them more like trade shows
  5. Art fairs were begun by dealers as a way of competing with art auctions
  6. At Art Basal, Miami Beach, 2002 the phenomenon really took off
  7. Costs incurred by Art Fairs include insurance, shipping, lighting, installing, partitions, lights, hotels, dinners and entertainment
  8. 70% of their sales are done at art fairs
  9. If an artist caters to the market they might compromise their integrity but on the other hand, if they don’t make art for fairs, they’ll miss out on sales
  10. Art Fairs are a success for galleries when new contacts are made, exhibitions come out of it, they can represent and promote their artists. Their artists can get museum exhibition from some far flung art fair

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