Future Fair pays it forward with fund to support emerging galleries

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The Future Fair, now in its third in-person iteration at Chelsea Industrial (10-13 May), was born out of a desire and market need for more supportive opportunities for young galleries and spaces with less commercial programming. The self-described “capsule sized” fair has scaled up for its largest outing yet, with 57 participating galleries.

This year’s Future Fair is heavy on painting, as might be expected—New York is “famously known as the ‘painting town’”, says fair co-founder Rachel Mijares Fick. “The fair is a definitive snapshot of what contemporary painting is today,” says co-founder Rebeca Laliberte. Among the painters showing this year: Kevin Sabo with New York-based Kates-Ferri Projects, Laura Limbourg with Brussels gallery Ballon Rouge and Seulgi Kim on the stand of Seoul’s Gallery Afternoon.

Kevin Sabo, She’s So Lucky, 2023 Courtesy of the artist and Kates-Ferri
Projects, New York

But beyond showing fresh and on-trend paintings, Mijares Fick and Laliberte want their fair to operate differently from the traditional model, which can be especially onerous for smaller and younger galleries with very little staff and minimal overhead. “Our profit sharing model was something that we introduced at the start of this business,” says Laliberte.

The fair’s founding galleries have been grandfathered into a profit-sharing agreement, binding for five years, wherein 35% of profits the fair generates (through ticket sales, sponsorships or supplemental activations) are evenly distributed. A gallery can either take its sum in cash, get a credit toward next year’s booth or contribute it to the “Pay it Forward” fund, another of Future Fair’s innovations.

Laura Limbourg, Las Vegas, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Ballon Rouge, Brussels, Belgium

For the 2023 edition, the Pay it Forward fund distributed $10,000 in mutual-aid grants to nearly a dozen young and diverse participating spaces, though the fair does not disclose which specific exhibitors receive aid. “We do our best to provide some stipend to as many as we possibly can of those who’ve applied,” says Mijares Fick. Any fair applicant in Future Fair can request to be a recipient and, conversely, any gallery with a revenue surplus can contribute to the fund (founding member or not).

“We try to get the temperature of what galleries need,” Mijares Fick says. As a result, each gallery “has an opportunity to make an impact and build something fresh together”. Future fair, future proofed.

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