Pairing Galleries and Splitting the Profits: How a New Art Fair Aims to Change the Game

Founders Rebeca Laliberte and Rachel Mijares Fick have come up with an approach that could change the way art fairs operate.

Rebeca Laliberte and Rachel Mijares Fick Venky Photography

The average contemporary art fair can feel a bit more like a meat market than a refined, curated experience. Future Fair offers a corrective for the current fair ecosystem by bringing in galleries as partners to create the feel of a swanky salon or sophisticated kunsthalle.

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Future Fair will launch May 7 to 9, 2020, with an exhibition in Chelsea’s Canoe Studios, coinciding with Frieze Week in New York City. Future tasks their patchwork of exhibiting galleries (which they have capped at 36) to work in pairs to create presentations that encourage viewers to linger in one spot, abolishing that fair fatigue that arises from the urge to dash from one booth to the next.

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“I was very resistant for a long time to the idea of starting an art fair,” says Rachel Mijares Fick, who co-founded Future with Rebeca Laliberte. Each has more than a decade of experience in the fine art industry, working with fairs and galleries around the world to connect artists’ stories with collectors.

Mijares Fick continues, “The traditional fair model isn’t brokenI still see galleries and artists succeed there. However, I do think in order to support a healthy economy we need to give galleries options on how they choose to participate in international commerce.”

Future will foster that support by charging participating gallerists to create unique, bilateral mini-shows. Galleries can apply in pairs, but Mijares Fick and Laliberte will assign solo applicants a complementing partner. These mini-shows highlight both the diversity of Future’s exhibitors and the artists that each represents.

“By showing fewer exhibitors, we encourage visitors to slow down, have more conversations and engage more deeply with the work,” says Laliberte. “It also allows us the bandwidth to spend more time marketing each gallery and telling their story and the stories of their artists.”

A key component of Future’s roll-out is its founders’ commitment to showing the gallerists they are valued partners. Taking a note from the start-up world, Future offers its founding galleries a stake in the fair’s growth for the next four years. That stake translates to an equal piece of 35-percent of the show’s profits.

Canoe Studios. Vencky Photography, courtesy Canoe Studios

Galleries can take that return in cash, use it toward fees for the next fair, or sponsor another gallery’s entry into Future. Show fees will range from $6,500 to $10,900 depending on the size of the room that a gallery shows in. Rooms will range from 300- to 700-square feet.

Mijares Fick says, “As far as we know, we are the first fair to openly build a profit-sharing model into our contract with the founding galleries and use that as a pivotal part of telling our story.”

“We feel that it’s another way of holding us accountable and ensuring that we continue to stay true to our mission, which is ultimately to provide an equitable platform for our galleries and their artists,” adds Laliberte.

The final selections for the first Future Fair will be announced early next year. Its founders’ focus on the curatorial experience and their deep understanding of the contemporary art market ensure that attendees will encounter presentations that are fresh, exciting, and worthwhileat the initial show and beyond.

Pairing Galleries and Splitting the Profits: How a New Art Fair Aims to Change the Game