In Canada, the ‘emerging’ label characterizes many artists, considering the small size of the secondary market. In the average art market, this reluctance to buy/invest in emerging artists can stem from the liability that an unestablished artist can represent, what with their lack of defined style and body of work, and unpredictable career choices; all variables which could affect the value of a work/artist on the market.
In Canada, however, this reluctance stems from a more deep-seated issue in the market/art culture, which is the lack of infrastructure in the art scene and lack of seriousness/market expertise on the part of many art community professionals. This situation discourages international and Canadian collectors alike from being patrons of contemporary and 'emerging' art.
The Canadian art scene has changed significantly in the past 25 years. Through this evolution, Canada has developed several thriving art scenes in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto. These ‘scenes’ involve and define contemporary art and emerging artist by nature. Unsurprisingly, Toronto offers the most substantial market; however, it remains relatively small by international standards, and there exists a fragmented relationship between the size of Toronto’s art scene and the size of its art market.
Toronto’s contemporary/‘emerging’ arts are not backed by an understanding of the art market or any notion of ‘patronage’ at all. Similarly, it’s efforts in creating ‘hype’ for itself are nominal, and this means that many potential collectors are not encouraged to buy.
Many Canadian art market professionals have indicated that hyping foreign/domestic investment in Canadian art as a commodity shouldn’t be the function of the art community, as it doesn’t do anybody any good in the art world. Many suggest that this approach of ‘investing’ centers art market buying on name recognition and perceived value market momentum rather than on the work itself and its fundamental value.
This perception, however, is not in keeping with the rest of the international art market, and is largely idealistic.
Market momentum should be generated by any means necessary. Toronto must embrace a more serious market mentality, engage with the international art market and its strategies and leverage its assets as a city to maximize its visibility and establish ‘hype’ around its market, artists, and overall art scene.
What is promising for Toronto’s market is the developing popularity of Toronto art fairs. Art fairs are crucial events within an art market to generate visibility and attract collectors, both seasoned and amateur.
Fairs such as Art Toronto, and the establishing of a second mainstream art fair in the city, called Feature Art Fair, which will focus more on contemporary art, give promise to the outlook of the Canadian contemporary/emerging artist market. Feature Art Fair is being launched by the Montreal-based Contemporary Art Galleries Association (AGAC), whose goal is to generate a buzz around the Toronto art scene and encourage greater collector tourism by providing an additional attraction on the same weekend the Toronto Art Fair is being held. This strategy is not a competitive one, but rather, complimentary, towards raising Toronto’s overall art profile
Art fairs around the world are generally held strategically in the months of September or October, as well as on certain holiday or event weekends, to anticipate the movement of visiting or local collectors/art connoisseurs within a city.
Toronto’s art fairs should utilize these same strategies of leveraging visibility and attendance. Toronto is developing an increasingly international cultural profile with the popularity of the Toronto International Film Festival, and art fairs should capitalize on the momentum that such cultural events create.
The art market is one based on cache and perceived value. A successful market is only as successful as it is perceived, therefore the Canadian contemporary/emerging artist market must generate its own success through hype and visibility. Only then can emerging and contemporary artists have greater success in the market.
By: Mairead O Brien