In a thought-provoking conversation with a Canadian artist based in London, Susan discovered the pivotal role that cultural sensitivity plays in the art industry.
Reflecting on her personal experiences participating in hotel fairs in the US and UK, Susan witnessed the stark contrast that can either propel an artist towards success or lead to their downfall.
The Positive Encounter: A Hotel Fair in the US
Susan’s first encounter with a hotel fair in the US left an indelible impression, despite the personal health challenges she faced. The setup was ingeniously crafted: each exhibiting gallery or artist transformed a hotel room into their unique exhibition space. This arrangement posed curatorial challenges such as deciding whether to keep the bed, navigating rules that prohibited wall holes, and exploring innovative ways to showcase art on bathroom mirrors.
As visitors entered the hotel lobby, they were warmly greeted by fair representatives who provided them with a floor plan highlighting room numbers and exhibitors.
Spanning multiple floors, the fair showcased a diverse range of presentations in each room, eliciting enthusiasm and delight from the attendees. The brilliance of the concept shone through as visitors appreciated the distinctive character of every space.
Great Expectations for Europe
Inspired by her transformative experience, Susan returned to London brimming with enthusiasm for this new art fair model. She perceived it as the progressive path forward and eagerly anticipated its arrival in Europe. However, reality proved to be more challenging than anticipated.
The Disheartening Reception in the UK
When the hotel art fair model finally arrived in London after a couple of years, it met an unfortunate demise. Susan witnessed a marked contrast in the response of UK visitors.
They found the setup intimidating, uncomfortable, and even confrontational. The experience of entering small, enclosed exhibition spaces repeatedly, encountering exhibitors throughout the fair, failed to resonate with the British audience.
To compound matters, visiting American gallerists, including Susan’s compatriots, wholeheartedly welcomed every person into their rooms. As someone who had lived in London for years, Susan couldn’t help but cringe at the stark difference in approach. British visitors felt an inexplicable urge to escape the overwhelming American enthusiasm.
This dissonance served as a stark reminder of the foreign nature of the format.
The Demise and the Lesson Learned
Unsurprisingly, Susan later learned that many visitors did not complete their journey through the entire fair due to these factors. Exhibitors, too, concluded that while hotel fairs thrived in the USA, they simply did not resonate in the UK. The British art scene demanded a different approach, one that was attuned to the cultural nuances and sensitivities of the audience.
Susan’s transformative journey serves as a powerful reminder to artists exhibiting abroad—cultivate cultural antennae, make adjustments to your presentation and communication strategies.
While it remains crucial to maintain your personal brand, prioritizing cultural sensitivity becomes paramount. Susan’s experience highlights the importance of adapting to diverse audiences, understanding their preferences, and creating an inclusive art experience that aligns with their cultural expectations.
By embracing cultural sensitivity, artists can navigate the global art market with grace, leaving an indelible mark on an international scale.