1. Arco Madrid
Location: Madrid, Spain
Average Attendance: 92,000
Art Contemporary Madrid (better known as Arco) is the world’s most highly attended art fair with around 92,000 visitors in 2015 – a full 10,000 more than Art Basel Miami in second place. As the name implies, Arco is a contemporary art fair, so don’t expect to see any classic blue chip pieces from the likes of Picasso or Constantin Brâncuși.
With that said, you will find some of the world’s top galleries and contemporary artists on display. Every medium gets a fair shake, too – paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings, prints, mixed media and video installations. You can expect to see roughly 160-200 different galleries each year from around 30 different countries.
This year, the fair celebrated its 35th birthday, and invited galleries, artists, institutions and collectors who had contributed to the fair over those years to join the celebration. Arco was one of the first art fairs in the world to include roundtable talks with renowned curators as part of the festivities – a practice that is now commonplace throughout the industry.
2. Frieze Art Fair
Location: London, England
Average Attendance: 55,000
Inaugurated in 2003, Frieze Art Fair focuses on contemporary art and takes place in London’s Regent’s Park in October – although the fair recently expanded to New York this year. In 2015, the London fair gathered approximately 164 galleries from 27 different countries.
The show was started by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, the publishers of frieze magazine. Since its beginnings in 2003, the fair has developed a significant reputation as a hotspot for emerging arts stars, so much so that Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips expanded their art auctions to coincide with “Frieze Week” each year, according to The New York Times.
3. Contemporary Istanbul
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Average Attendance: 74,000
The 11-year-old Contemporary Istanbul is the largest international art fair in Turkey and shows over 100 exhibitors each year. It has also become known for its staunch support of local Turkish art as well as international offerings.
The fair is also regarded for its engaging art events in outside of its usual lineup, including Plugin, dedicated to the interaction of science, technology, politics and art, and Ci Design, which aims to highlight functional art and objet d’art created by designers and architects.
4. The Armory Show
Photo Credit: BFA Courtesy of The Armory Show 2016
Location: New York, USA
Average Attendance: 65,000
Named after the famous 1913 exhibition under the same name, The Armory Show in New York takes place at the West Side Piers (92 & 94) each year. New York is a hotbed for art fairs right now, but The Armory Show is generally regarded as the premier art attraction of the year.
The show also coincides with several smaller art fairs, including Volta Ny, the official affiliate of The Armory Show.
The show is in its 22nd year, and is widely thought of as one of the highlights of the global art calendar. In addition to traditional art displays, the fair offers several curatorial initiatives and specially-commissioned projects in an effort to highlight emerging voices in the art world.
5. Art Stage Singapore
Average Attendance: 45,700
Art Stage Singapore is Southeast Asia’s premier art fair and sits neck-and-neck with Art Basel Hong Kong on the wider Asian stage. The fair is known as one of the best places to find contemporary Asian art, and prides itself on a deep understanding of Asia’s diverse visual arts climate – much more so than the big shows in Europe or the United States.
Singapore’s geographical location puts Art Stage in a unique position to highlight galleries and artists from throughout Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Its positioning also makes it the main driver of market activity in Southeast Asia’s art scene.
6. The European Fine Arts Fair
Location: Maastricht, Netherlands
Average Attendance: 65,000
Focusing on art, antiques and design, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) presents an astounding 275 galleries from 20 different countries each year. TEFAF covers all ranges of art from all periods, but built its name showcasing old master paintings and antiques – there are dedicated sections for Classical Modern and contemporary works, though. On top of that, you can find rare jewellery, 20th century design displays and written work for sale.
TEFAF utilises is known for an extremely rigorous authenticity examination before art is accepted, hiring approximately 175 international experts in 29 different art categories to check each piece’s quality, authenticity and condition before it sees the show floor.
7. Zona Maco Contemporary Art Show
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Average Attendance: 40,000
Zona Maco México Arte Contempo Ráneo (or just Zona Maco) is arguably the most important and influential art fair in Latin America, merging exciting local talent from the region with established global stars. Since its first show 14 years ago, Zona Maco has solidified its position as the best selling platform for artists in the region.
Well over 100 galleries take part each year, but the fair claims that number is cut down from a much larger number of applicants. Like many of the shows on this list, Zona Maco offers art-centred conferences and an awards ceremony at the end of the three-day festivities.