Curagenda’s insider guide to fall’s major art fairs

Damien Hirst, “Demon with Bowl” (exhibition enlargement).
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/SIAE 2017.


From Frieze to FIAC, Venice to Miami, we’re all about autumn’s major art fairs and biennials. But like all but the savviest insiders, we find it tough to sort through the myriad cultural offerings, see the best art, and make it to the best parties. So with the season already upon us, we turned to Curagenda, a fantastic New York-based art concierge service that designs customized trips, insider tours, and behind-the-scenes art activities, for help drawing up the perfect fall itinerary.

Venice Biennale

May 13 – November 26, 2017

For more than 120 years, the Venice Biennale has been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, it has an attendance today of over 500,000 visitors. The 57th International Art Exhibition, titled “Viva Arte Viva,” features 120 invited artists, 103 of which are participating for the first time, 86 National Participations, Special Projects, and 23 Collateral Events.

“If it’s your first time to visit the Venice Biennale, making the selection of what to see in a sea of options can be quite daunting,” says Curagenda founder and contemporary art curator Helen Homan Wu. “On top of that, it’s easy to waste time getting lost. In other words, plan ahead and show up with a list of what you want to see (our itineraries also include local escorts).”

James Lee Byers, “The Golden Tower.”
Photo by Richard Ivey, courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London


Helen’s list includes “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” by Damien Hirst, at the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, “The Golden Tower” by James Lee Byars, at Campo San Vio, “Faust” by Anne Imhof at the German Pavilion, and “The Unplayed Notes Factory” by Loris Greaud, on Murano.

“Axel Vervoordt usually puts up an interesting show that’s ephemeral,” she adds (this year’s Vervoordt exhibition, “Intuition,” is located at Palazzo Fortuny). “And there are many private art foundations that have excellent quality contemporary art shows by top curators, including the Prada Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation.”

Frieze London

October 5-8, 2017

One of the world’s top contemporary art fairs, the UK-based Frieze originally launched as an influential magazine, focused not only on modern and contemporary art, but also on the great creative thinkers of our time. Frieze now comprises three separate art fairs, including Frieze London, Frieze Masters (both in October in Regents Park, London) and Frieze New York (every May in Randall’s Island, New York). 

“The multimedia artist Haroon Mirza’s newly commissioned artwork and exhibition presented by Zabludowic Collection with a private viewing is hot ,” says Helen of Curagenda. “Some may have seen his solo show, an immersive installation, at New York’s New Museum a few years back.” 

Frieze Sculpture 2017.
Photo by Stephen White. Courtesy of Stephen White/Frieze.


Helen also recommends the David Roberts Art Foundation’s 10th anniversary party at the historic music venue KOKO, the invitation-only party by Art Review magazine, and the private welcoming and tours of the Serpentine Pavilion 2017 designed by Francis Kere, to be hosted by internationally renowned curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and Serpentine Gallery’s CEO Yana Peel.

“Attending the Frieze London and Masters Preview (which can be sorted out with our VIP package) is a must to spot superstar artists, curators, collectors, and celebrities, but it’s also a chance to see some eye-catching creative outfits worn by fair visitors,” says Helen.  

FIAC Paris

October 19-22, 2017

One of the longest running art fairs in Europe, FIAC sees seasoned art professionals and collectors flocking to Paris’ Grand Palais. For a week, the entire city buzzes with artistic activity with the support of local authorities, creating strong bonds between public and private institutions and overseas partners. It’s an art festival in the truest sense, with FIAC’s commercial activities (i.e. the art fair) seemingly blended in effortlessly with its public projects and programs. Year after year, the VIP program continues to showcase the breadth of what the French art capital and its art lover inhabitants have to offer. 

Chiharu Shiota, ”Destination”
exhibition at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, 2017.
Sylvian Ristor “Soleil Bleu” Les Bains


“Don’t miss FIAC’s vernissage!” says Helen. “Try to go a bit early to have time to sip champagne in the VIP lounge, do some people watching, and marvel at the architecture  from the balcony.” Also on Curagenda’s list are the Marcel Duchamp Prize ceremony at Centre Pompidou and the opening night gala dinner hosted inside Musee National Picasso. “Besides the main fair, I highly recommend seeing the satellite fairs, Paris Internationale and Asia Now Paris, both showcasing very interesting galleries that are young and forward-thinking, with more affordable pieces from under-the-radar talents ,” says Helen.

Art Basel Miami Beach

December 7-10, 2017

Art Basel is an international art fair with three shows staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong. The Miami Beach show draws leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, showing significant work from the masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well the new generation of emerging stars. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, and editioned works of the highest quality are on display in the main exhibition hall. Ambitious large?scale artworks, films and performances become part of the city’s outdoor landscape at nearby Collins Park and SoundScape Park.

Courtesy Art Basel.

“I always like to be in Miami two days before the art fair’s preview day,” says Helen, “not for the beach but to get acclimated and take in the new environment. Even before the fair opens in the beginning of the art week, there are no shortage of parties and event invitations, and we can attend in a more relaxed calm-before-the-storm way. Once it hits vernissage night, it’s going to be non-stop through the next few days. There are about 20 satellite fairs and outdoor projects all around town; there will be art on every corner of Miami.”

“Since the fair is still so far away,” Helen adds, “I won’t know what the program will be like until this fall, but generally, the official grand opening draws a spectacular mix of extravagant collectors and well-heeled art enthusiasts and shouldn’t be missed. The Perez Art Museum Art Basel Party is great (tip: leave before the party ends so you don’t get stuck in the exit traffic jam hell), and there are a lot of one-off art x fashion parties, which I’m not going to list here, though Jeffrey Deitch always puts up a good show.”

Find out more about Curagenda by visiting their website. Through a special limited-time partnership, Design Hotels™ Community members receive a 10-20 percent discount on the Curagenda packages listed here, applied at checkout when you use the code “DESIGNHOTELS.” 

Sunday, September 17th, 2017