Anatomy of an art fair. What kind are you?

The BSDs (Big Swinging Dealers)

… Or Dealmakers, as you prefer: Larry Gagosian, Marian Goodman, Arne Glimcher, Bill Acquavella, Barbara Gladstone and their ilk – kingmakers past and present, artists and collectors, who have shaped tastes, careers and the market itself.

“These are the real lions and lionesses. They have played, and still play, a much more important role in the world beyond which they represent and what they sell, ”says Jean-Paul Engelen, vice-president and global co-head of 20th century art. century and contemporary at Phillips. “They influence auctions, finances, museum collections, everything.”

Nathan Clements-Gillespie, Artistic Director of Frieze Masters, adds context: “You can imagine Larry [Gagosian] better than about 90 percent of its customers. Not just because he’s someone with economic parity in this world – but because he has the eye and the us. And he is known to have the global billionaire’s agenda down to an art. (A prominent figure in the art world describes the suppers the BSDs throw like this: “You know that scene from Oliver Twist of Fagin’s dinner party, where all the kids empty the loot from their pockets on the table to impress the boss. …? A bit like that. ”)

Find them: On yachts, or at Casa Malaparte (Gagosian) in Capri, in summer; To Scott’s and Harry’s Bar in London during Frieze Week; Mr. Chow at the W Hotel South Beach in Miami, owned by super collector Aby Rosen, in December; switch between Frieze in Los Angeles and Gstaad (where elite boarding school Le Rosey holds its annual unofficial gala “week” in February); the Hotel du Cap for the amfAR Gala in May. And all year round at Harry’s bar in Venice (“It’s absolutely one thing, and whatever the table,” says Engelen), or Saint Ambrose – on Madison, not on West 4th – in Manhattan.

Locate them: By their relaxed but ultra-fine finery. It looks like a uniform (blazer, shirt, khaki, boat shoes), but is invariably the most luxurious and expensive version of it (Cucinelli, Charvet, Loro Piana etc).

They stay: TO The brand (New York) or Claridge’s (London). On a yacht, again, or at The Gritti Palace Where The Cipriani (Venice); To The Three Kings in Basel.


The operators behind the scenes who hold a subtle but real power: PR, salon directors, VIP consultants. Sometimes even chefs (think Ruth Rogers at River Café or Margot Henderson at Rochelle Canteen, shaping stature with their table locations and events they might host).

Locate them: By their understatement in the know. Trend (but not too much), especially for PR: Saint Laurent suit, Loewe statement coats, sneakers (probably by Balenciaga). If still in doubt, Raf Simons x Prada. “You’re telegraphing relevance – too much last season and people might take you for last season,” says Clements-Gillespie of Frieze Masters. “But obviously vintage is good too. Engelen adds: “They dress up, but no one wants to look like an accountant.”

Find them: All over. The nature of the various roles keeps this cohort circulating through all upper and lower strata. “It’s work,” says Clements-Gillespie. “Someone must be this comfortable in a parking lot in Peckham [locus of art exposition space Bold Tendencies, with Frank’s upstairs for a spritz in the warm months] like at Mark’s Club. In Miami they could be at Casa Tua (a faithful flamboyant scene) one evening, the restaurant at the new Rubells Museum in Allapattah – or a taco truck, for that matter – the next day. And New York, the same, from Dimes Square to Peterboro.

They stay: The Three Kings, again, in Basel; The upper chamber in Hong Kong; Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles ; and in Venice, a decent Airbnb will do.

The Old Masters

Their reserve is from the 14th to the 17th century paintings, drawings and sculptures; and they still care about the geek, the relationships, the real art – and the lifestyle. (“No potential sale is so huge that it might convince them to give up their three weeks in August at Punta Tragara” in Capri, says Clements-Gillespie.) Traveled a lot, deeply acquainted with the culture, with an infallible eye that can detect a masterpiece hidden under centuries of grime through a crowded view.

Locate them:: Elegant is the default, a well-judged stroke of eccentricity a plus. The sprezzatura of the art world is concentrated here (see: Florentine dandy Fabrizio Moretti, who transformed the cane he walks with into a much admired style statement). Maybe with a tie, but probably not with a full signet ring (caveat: Barone del Biscoto from Lampedusa – not the vibe these pros seek to cultivate). Anderson & Sheppard for costumes, Lobb (the real one, on St James’s) for Nehru New Years shoes, shirts and vests in Jaipur. Pajamas Degand House in Brussels, probably a Lanz in Salzburg.

Find them: In London, they are in the mezzanine of the Wolseley for supper and at Wilton for the lunch; in New York, at The Bilboquet and Cipriani 42nd Street; in Venice, in Antiche Carampane Where Da Franz. Invariably Maastricht in March for TEFAF, filling tables at Mediterranean and the still buzzing Cafe Sjiek.

They stay: In their apartments overlooking Hyde Park or Regent’s Park; in Venice, at the Cipriani – or, better yet, a private palazzo or nobile apartment for grand piano, ideal for entertaining (with catering by Arabeschi di Latte, of course).

© Sanda Anderlon

The stealthy mega collector

You wouldn’t necessarily know him if you are outside of the art world, even, in some cases, inside. Incredible taste, deeply sought after, knows the market. Already owns a large collection, may have left a long term relationship with one or two dealers to work with an advisor or alone. “Many of them do not host [events], and will not have a museum, ”says Clements-Gillespie. “And the stealthiest ones we might not even know at the fair, because the dealers keep them so close to their chests.”

Locate them: They could be dressed like your wealth manager, but also like your dad – or maybe your dog walker. There is an American couple of collectors husband and wife famous for doing low-fi (think Birkenstock) up to major events. Richard Scott, founder and CEO of London-based public relations consultancy Scott & Co, whose clients include Frieze, Thomas Dane Gallery and the Royal Academy, recalls invitation to the opening of a private museum from a collector serious Chinese, who hosted guests at the Beijing event in simple tracksuits – and hosted the next day’s dinner in the same outfit. “I thought it was really cool,” Scott says. “And by the way, this was one of the nicest private museums I’ve seen.”

They go: At fairs, sometimes but not always, and not to give air kisses or to establish the usual soft-power relationships. “In Basel, they would only be there on Tuesday and Wednesday,” says Engelen de Phillips, adding that they often go straight upstairs for the large inventory set aside. In Venice, they might make an appearance, say, at San Giorgio Maggiore for the Pinault dinner – “but briefly, because their guests want to go there, then they’ll go to Da Frantz or Al Covo for dinner, ”says Clements-Gillespie.

They stay: At home – a handful of childcare places in Basel, says Clements-Gillespie – or in the usual suspect hotels. Some, in Venice and all summer, on yachts; “So they can be invisible. You would only know they are there if you are invited – or if you have the Maritime traffic application.

Alpha advisers

The New Old Guard, including many former gallery owners or auctioneers. “Ten or twelve years ago, advisers were quite peripheral and viewed with suspicion,” Scott explains. “These days they’re absolutely the center of the action” – and a handful of them are serious power brokers on par with the BSDs. “The very good do two things: they create a financial context and they create a historical context of art. And they think long term, ”says Engelen; he cites Sandy Heller – whose clients have included Roman Abramovich and hedge fund manager / New York Mets owner Steve Cohen – among the most respected, as well as Heller’s partner, former Gagosian Paris director Jean- Olivier Després. “Sandy’s fast, he’s efficient and he’s super quiet.” Amy Cappellazzo also collects admiring words; the former co-head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s left the auction house in 2014 to create Art Agency Partners with Allan Schwartzman – which was acquired by Sotheby’s in 2016 for a varying price between $ 50 million and $ 85 million. (“Talk about the art of selling.”)

Locate them: Normcore. “Their three key words are confidence, confidence, confidence, so they won’t really be the ones with the glowing plumage,” notes Engelen. Heller and Després are often seen in a navy blue suit, with a blue sk shirt (and no tie).

They go: Wherever their customers want: St-Jean in EC1 when it’s Frieze week, Cantine Rochelle when this is not the case; Milos Where Mandolin In Miami. by Duddell, with its top-notch dim sum, was the pre-Covid perennial in Hong Kong.


Come in all sizes and shapes: ambitious artists, social highlanders, brilliant new technologies and cover multimillionaires. Underage celebrities (and some less underage) who might not know a Basquiat from a Beato Angelico, but have heard that it is cool to make the scene in Miami. What it is: “It looks a bit like the Christmas party for the staff of the art world,” says Engelen. “You see people mingling all over the place – there’s usually cross-pollination, as if everyone is at Soho Beach House. ”

He cites other evolving social landscapes in a series of new winter events, such as the Engadin Art Talks and the Verbier Art Summit. And Gstaad, in particular the Elevation 1049 series from the LUMA foundation, curated by Neville Wakefield and Olympia Scarry. Venice, says Clements-Gillespie, is one of the favorites of direct revelers, who are aided by its abundant access to water: a small boat in which they will have charmed a local to take them.

Locate them: Young, generally attractive, charming, dressed to impress (on a sample sale budget: Chloe, Celine, Giuliva Legacy x H&M, if they’re lucky enough to have one). Perhaps accessorized with a huge bouquet they grabbed at the last dinner they attended; “The party animal has a knack for picking up the accessory that ties it all together,” says Clements-Gillespie.

They go: Anywhere there’s a free meal or probably a plus one on a VIP card.

They stay: Wherever there is a spare sofa.

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