The fall season of fairs always engenders business. The TEFAF fair in New York has spawned four additional fairs including two by IFPDA, one by my own organization the AALDA and an independent jewelry and art show. Clearly the publicity created by a major show and the number of collectors and all round buyers it can bring to the city is an important draw for all trade. But fairs have another role these days as the number of bricks and mortar store front establishments continues to dwindle and that is education.
There was an ad for a clothing store in New York which had the line, "an educated consumer is our best customer". For better or worse, I have Sy Syms, the clothier and author on an endless loop in my brain. Nevertheless, it is a good, no, great, line. It is one that all of us need to remember. We need an educated clientele. We need people to come to fairs where, unlike a museum, you can ask a question of a living person and get an answer that is more fleshed out than a museum tag.
I have been working hard to understand internet marketing. It certainly offers a marketplace for consumers of art and antiques. But there is a problem. The person buying online may have no understanding of why something is priced the way it is. Is it an incredible bargain that you are about to buy or is it a fake or anything else for that matter? And, as the most prominent online marketplace is removing the names of dealers from their site, you no longer have the comfort of buying from a dealer you trust. This situation corrupts the very essence of what we are.
In other words, there is movement in our world away from knowledge. It seems innocuous and, in truth, there is no one to blame and we are all to blame, but I also think of the people who truly love what we sell. I am reminded of the famous Love Canal near Niagara Falls, a toxic waste site filled with chemicals over which schools and houses were built. The land looked fine, but it was toxic and made people ill. If the analogy is hyperbolic, I intend for it to be. We need more fairs - we need to support our fairs and we need to publicize our fairs. We also need to develop internet sites that educate, inform, support the trade and which work. Otherwise, we might just find that the ground has been poisoned for us all.
All the best,
President of CINOA