Tbilisi Art Fair Uniting the World

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The FINANCIAL — Marking its second appearance, Tbilisi Art Fair (TAF) has already made quite a buzz among art followers and others. Sponsored by art industry supporter TBC Bank, from 17 to 20 May, Expo Georgia will be following a busy schedule, running one of the most anticipated art events of the year.

Already being covered by prestigious international media outlets such as Art Newspaper, Art Forum, Vienna Art Review, The Guardian, and many others, this year’s Tbilisi Art Fair aims to achieve a whole new level of awareness.

Offering a range of exhibitions and activities, from markets and masterclasses, to lectures and forums, TAF presents a value far superior to a mere exhibition and has created a social hub where arts admirers are given the freedom to express their taste and immerse themselves in contemporary artworks.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase the finest of works present at the exhibition and thereby make a smart investment in art. The project promises benefits for not only the arts industry but Georgian tourism and its economy as well.

The importance of this event has already been reflected in the numbers: USD 320,000 worth of artworks sold, 8,000 plus visitors, and nearly 1,000 pieces of art exhibited.

Impressive though it may be, this year’s plans are even more superior, with organisers confident about making an even greater impact globally than before.

To gain more sophisticated insights, The FINANCIAL reached out to The Executive Director of Expo Georgia, Kakha Gvelesiani.

“The core value of TAF is to gather up and support the flow of relevant information within the arts industry and enable audiences to compare the mastery of one art to another. Additional beauty lies within the novelty of scale in Georgia, where the art stage has only recently been developing in accordance with international standards.

These were the determining factors for us to concentrate on gathering and presenting the finest of Eastern European works, the uniqueness of the artistic flavour of which Western Europe lacked.

This strategy increased international awareness, resulting in 1,500 foreign visitors, a further step taken towards greater international awareness,” stated Kakha Gvelesiani in an interview with The FINANCIAL.

Maintaining the unique niche, the upcoming TAF is yet again diversified in different sectors: offering the age-free ‘HIVE’, consisting of 37 pre-selected talented upcomers; the ‘Orangery’ hosting an exhibition dedicated to the 130th anniversary of the legendary David Kakabadze; discussions concerning local and international art topics directed by arts expert Irina Popiashvili; the fourth hall presenting the work of six modern Georgian artists, and the third hall hosting video creations of 12 Azeri artists; MOMA Tbilisi (The Museum of Modern Arts) with an exhibition of the world-famous photographer Jeff Cowen, and much more.

Such a diversified event has become an attraction to art dealers from all over the world, which has been indicated in previously totalled sales of USD 320,000.

Arts expert Irina Popiashvili had a few things to say about the importance of the art market’s development.

“TAF has been established as one of the major self-marketing opportunities for artists, and honestly, the necessity for such events is crucial for the newly-developed Georgian market. Artists are no longer obliged to solely rely on various scholarships as a source of income, events like Tbilisi Art Fair have contributed to establishing a more individualised trading culture.

Now artists are better able to sell their works directly. By seeing the financial benefits of doing the work they love, individuals are becoming more motivated than ever.

Considering these, many consider TAF to hold importance on the national scale, the rising international interest on the Georgian market paves the way for attracting more foreign investments, which are crucial considering the inefficiency of funding solely via local channels.”

As Irina Popiashvili stated, the importance of such events unites all galleries and individuals with the shared purpose of presenting artworks in the finest way possible.

The popularised ideology of seeing art as a long term monetary investment is perhaps one of the positive indicators that forecasts a bright future for the industry.

As an example, in 2014, Krakow’s Museum of Contemporary Art purchased Giorgi Khaniashvili’s statue at USD 5,000. Meanwhile, the current value of the work is estimated to far exceed the purchase price.

The potential for monetary value increments has increased demand from art dealers. Not only does this benefit the art market, but many individuals as well.

Art dealers obviously desperately need artists and rising demand is expected to give a big motivational boost. There will likely emerge many more cases where art dealers will play a huge role in career development as well.

Previously, TAF proudly hosted an arts dealer from Cartier’s Arts Foundation of Paris. Their impressions were so positive, that they even exhibited Georgian artist Nika Kutateladze in their gallery in Paris, at the exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’. The Paris exhibition “presented 21 artists of 16 countries”.

Such cases of success highlight the lasting value of TAF. Although the initial sales recorded at the event show decent figures, it would be inaccurate to sum up the monetary value at just USD 320,000, as highlighting the recognition that is brought from such an event will result in a chain reaction effect.

By Gela Megeneishvili

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