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Ahead of the opening of MARKET Art Fair we turned to an international maestro, Noah Horowitz, director of New York’s Armory Show, to inspire why the arts is an exciting business to be in

5 min read

What makes the arts great business?

The strength of the art business comes from the dynamism inherent in cross-cultural dialogue, a culture that embraces the new and the challenging, and the consistently present element of surprise that is tantamount to art itself. To be involved in the art business is to be part of a creating and collective editing process that helps shape contemporary culture for future generations. This has always been tremendously exciting for me.

Is a strong art market good for the arts in general?

A strong art market allows artists to pursue their dreams; the more robust the market, the more likely they are to sustain their careers as artists without having to figure out how to put bread on the table. This logic, in turn, spills over to museums and arts institutions of every kind, allowing them to pursue ambitious programming and build their collections. That being said, of course, a buoyant trade also places commercial pressure on artists and galleries that aren’t always for the better, and speculative forces can destabilise markets. But at the margin, it seems inarguable to me that a strong trade does more good for the arts than not.

Apart from financial support, how can businesses help the arts?

The arts have a lot to learn from business nowadays. Beyond financing, for example, businesses can support artists and galleries by sharing basic market intelligence and oversight, from how to write business plans to balancing budgets, controlling costs and better understanding operational risks. Moreover, as artists have taken on increasingly ambitious multi-media practices, legal and financial acumen is at a premium, and they can also learn substantially from current operative models in the IP [intellectual property] community. Sustainable and meaningful careers in the arts can thus hopefully be learnt through business practitioners.

But why should businesses really support the arts?

Businesses should support the arts because the cultural industries are the fabric of the societies and communities that underpin the businesses themselves. To invest in the arts is thus to support shared culture, regionally or more broadly, and to direct funds both to artists themselves, as well as to diverse institutions that are nowadays facing waning levels of support from the public sector in the United States and Europe. The arts, moreover, can inspire creative approaches to business practices, as well as affording contact with diverse webs of collectors and patrons involved in the art market that could well prove beneficial to a business’s strategic growth.

How is technology influencing or changing the Armory Show?

When I joined the Armory Show in 2011, we forged a partnership with Paddle8 to expand the experience of the fair into the digital realm. In the subsequent years, we’ve worked with Artsy, co-pioneering new initiatives to bring the Armory online. In broadening the scope of our viewership (more than 150,000 people worldwide visited the Armory mini-site on Artsy during the 2013 fair) and creating a unique platform for learning about, and potentially buying, art online, there has been a major value-added for our exhibitors. We take a lot of pride in being at the front of the curve for this type of innovation.

Business can support artists and galleries by sharing basic market intelligence and oversight

What are you favourite arts organisations in the Nordic Region?

The Louisiana and Moderna Museet are two of the great museums worldwide; Scandinavians are really fortunate to have such institutions in their back yard.  On a different scale, the Ordrupgaard Museum, just north of Copenhagen, holds a special place in my heart and its room of Vilhelm Hammershøi paintings is one of my favourites anywhere. In Copenhagen, itself, I think Charlottenburg is really flourishing again under the directorship of Jacob Fabricus, who curated our Nordic Focus section at the Armory Show in 2012, and I’m also interested in Maria Lind’s work at the Tensta Konsthall. In Norway, the Office for Contemporary Art has come to play a vital role in the country’s cultural landscape and the recent opening of the new Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo has squarely put the city on the international radar.

What is missing from the arts landscape in the Nordic countries?

Private patronage seems to be one of the key shortcomings. Despite a plethora of artists and a rich history of architecture and design, museums have tended to be overly reliant on public support for the arts, and the most ambitious galleries have had to rely on doing business beyond their borders to stay afloat. These issues became particularly acute in the wake of the latest financial crisis as already thin domestic art markets tapered off and as budgets for cultural organisations were further squeezed. This being said, Norway seems to have emerged as a real leader on the private patronage front, and last September we saw the launch of CHART in Copenhagen, so hopefully these and other developments can combine to create a more sustainable structure for both commercial galleries as well as arts institutions at large.

Celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2013, The Armory Show was officially called The International Exhibit of Modern Art when it opened in New York on February 17, 1913, at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. It set off a wave of excitement that changed American art.

Sit down and enjoy the show

Sit down and enjoy the show