The RMB Turbine Art Fair
The RMB Turbine Art Fair
Image: Supplied

The UBS Art Market report for 2018 claims 46% of gallery sales globally are made at art fairs. That’s a staggering number, considering fairs are only open for a couple of days. The report goes on to highlight the pivotal role of fairs in the global art market.

The RMB Turbine Art Fair (TAF) is in its sixth year and opens on Thursday. TAF has become a hotspot for keen collectors, especially those starting out, since it has positioned itself as an affordable and accessible fair. But, in a struggling economy and with the number of art fairs growing, the TAF has had to adapt to remain relevant.

“There are now more than 250 art fairs worldwide, while a few years ago there were less than 15,” says Glynis Hyslop, RMB TAF’s founder and managing director of The Forum Company. Numbers like this highlight the demand for fairs, despite tough economic conditions.  

Beyond setting themselves apart as an accessible art fair with prices at a ceiling of R50,000 per work, Hyslop says TAF believes the experiential element is vital in gaining an edge. “It’s essential to share ideas and experiences, so our RMB Talks and Walkabout Programme have more of a TED Talks slant, rather than being purely academic. Apart from the sales focus, art fairs are also a platform to inform.”

Through their talks programme, TAF gives visitors insight into how art shapes the creative economy by way of walkabouts with artists and discussions with industry leaders. Their Installations line-up is another tool used to involve visitors beyond the two-dimensional realm. This year’s installations, curated by Tamzin Lovell-Miller, will explore life in a post-truth era across mediums.

The TAF has recognised art and creativity are important and that fairgoers today want to learn more. “We live in a sharing economy where people want to share their experiences. Art fairs should facilitate this,” Hyslop says. As such, the TAF has a lifestyle focus. “We wanted it to feel relaxed, rather than intimidating, so it’s more of an art experience.  As the Turbine Art Fair has grown in support, we have also been able to be stringent about the quality of art shown.”

LOOK | Last year's RMB Turbine Art Fair:

In terms of current buying patterns, the focus has shifted from the higher end of the market explains Hyslop. “In light of the current economy, purchases are more considered and younger artists are becoming more attractive,” she explains. “While in the past year the high end of the market has become more difficult to move, it has created an appetite for contemporary art,” she says.

Asked who she’d put her money on at this year’s fair and Hyslop replied: “Bastiaan van Stenis, who is a new discovery. His work is very layered, using a diverse range of cloth, paint and wax. One needs to look at the work again and again to unwrap the meaning.

He is a committed artist and work ethic is as important as talent in the art world.

“I’ve also got me eye on Gabrielle Kruger, who has created an innovative, but immersive, landscape using paint, where paint effectively becomes plant. There are also some wonderful works from Artist Proof Studios.”

The RMB Turbine Art Fair open this Thursday (July 12) with a VIP cocktail party and continues until Sunday (July 15). Head to their website for more fair details, speakers and featured galleries.

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