Meet Pauline Loeb of artfairmag: The art fair expert

Pauline Loeb, Art Basel © Pauline Loeb

This week, Artsper is pleased to introduce you to Pauline Loeb, the founder of artfair Magazine! This publication, also known as artfairmag, is a guide to local and international art fairs around the world, and we are delighted to learn about Pauline's journey from being an art researcher to an entrepreneur. Welcome to the world of Pauline Loeb!

1. Hi Pauline! You have an interesting career journey from working as an art researcher to creating your own publication. What inspired you to start artfairmag?

I grew up surrounded by art. My father was an auctioneer in Drout and every weekend we went to the Hôtel des Ventes, wandering from room to room in search of treasures, amidst the inimitable, skilfully orchestrated chaos. Every vacation was punctuated by long visits to museums, and our house was overflowing with antique furniture, family pictures and knick-knacks of all kinds. So it was only natural that I studied art, which led me to work at Galerie Kugel, for me the world's greatest antique dealers. I was lucky enough to work there for 8 years, in contact with fantastic people and objects.

In 2018, I followed my husband to London with our 5-month-old daughter. I wanted to work in the world of art fairs and quickly noticed the absence of a reference site. I launched artfairmag at the end of 2019, a unique database for international fairs. Covid's timing was clearly bad! But it was precisely at this time that I began collaborating with Dr Clare McAndrew to write her Art Basel & UBS Art Market Report. I was also able to take advantage of this long break to launch a cycle of interviews with fair directors and gallery owners. When the fairs resumed, I started making videos on the stands. For several months now, I've been conducting remote interviews with various players in the art market, and I'm also working on a highly factual monthly report on the fairs, which will compliment my newsletter, which has a very personal tone and reflects my own experience of the fairs.  

2. Your magazine features art fairs taking place around the globe, how do you choose which ones to focus on?

One fair I particularly love is TEFAF Maastricht, because for almost 10 years, I've been on the other side of the looking glass by participating through Galerie Kugel. Going back every year to admire all the museum-quality works, discover the floral arrangements in the hall, meet up with my gallery-owning friends and, of course, see the whole Kugel team, is a must for me!  

After that, I try to strike a balance between major fairs, more regional fairs and local fairs. Obviously, it's impossible not to go to Art Basel or Frieze London when you run a fair magazine. But the great thing about having created my own magazine is that I'm free to highlight the fairs that appeal to me, whatever their size or reputation, simply because of the quality of the galleries, the artistic direction of the fair or the commitment of its director.  

One of the pitfalls of some of the big fairs is that you find the same galleries whether you're in Asia, Europe or America. So I try to go to fairs where the selection of exhibitors varies, so I can make some great discoveries. My motto is to enjoy myself!

LeftPauline interviewing Suzanne Marivoet, director of Underdogs Gallery, at Urban Art Fair 2023 © Pauline Loeb / Right: Pauline's bedroom with works by François Malingrëy, Jean Cocteau and Alméry Lobel-Riche © Pauline Loeb

3. What are your must-see art fairs of 2023?

For me, a good fair is the combination of an inspiring theme, a motivated and committed team, good exhibitors of course, and also the energy you feel as a visitor.  

Between September 2022 and July 2023, I visited 29 fairs in 9 different countries! Size doesn't really affect the quality of a fair. This year, for example, I particularly enjoyed the works presented at the giant Art Basel, while at the same time admiring the quality of a very small fair in terms of size, artmonte-carlo. As for regional fairs, I really like Art Paris, whose rise in recent years and commitment to the environment I applaud, as well as Art Brussels. As for local fairs, I was charmed by the highly specialized selection at NADA Miami and pleasantly surprised by The Treasure House Fair, which replaces Masterpiece London. Finally, I have a particular fondness for highly specialized fairs such as AKAA for African art, Urban Art Fair for urban art and Drawing Now Art Fair for contemporary drawing.

4. You interview many art dealers, could you tell us something memorable from one of these conversations?

I really enjoy the format of micro-interviews with gallery owners. It came about quite naturally, because I wanted to give an overview of the fairs I visit, but on the day of the opening, the dealers are always in a rush, hence this very short format, less than 90 seconds. The advantage is that I can do a certain number of these in a day, and that they're easy to watch and very entertaining.  

Something memorable... I'll start with my biggest failure when, at artgenèvre, I made 5 or 6 videos with beautiful galleries before realizing that my microphone was badly plugged in and that none of them had sound!  

On a better note, I loved talking to Sean Kelly at Art Basel Miami Beach. It was the first time I'd met this dealer whom I've admired for a long time, and while his stand was packed, he spent several minutes after the interview telling me about the artist Kehinde Wiley, whose painting he'd just presented on video. Later, I had the chance to ask him about the boom in the Los Angeles contemporary art market, as part of my "In Conversation With" series.

Left: Pauline's library with artworks by Henri Bargas, Esther Imard and Samuel Yal / Right: Pauline's kitchen with artwork by Igor Mitoraj, Persée, 1988 © Pauline Loeb

5. Artsper is an entirely digital marketplace, and we've noticed a rise in digital art in the current market. What recent trends are you excited about?  

Indeed, there has been a growing enthusiasm for digital art, which in 2022 will account for 5% of gallerists' global sales (versus 1% in 2021).

Digital art raises many questions. One point that particularly interests me is the uniqueness of location of an original work. In essence, the same work cannot be seen in several places at the same time. I'm not talking, of course, about multiple prints or reproductions. Digital art now makes this possible. A gallery can exhibit the same original work simultaneously in its different spaces. A museum can make a loan to another institution, making the work visible in both places. From now on, several originals can coexist simultaneously - it's absolutely fascinating!

6. Finally, which of the great art masters would you invite to dinner?  

I would organize an all-girls' dinner party! Imagine a big table where Frida Khalo and Rosalba Carriera would compare their ideas of portraiture, where Sonia Delaunay and Yayoi Kusama would discuss color, where Camille Claudel, Jeanne-Claude and Claude Lalanne (so many Claude's!) would talk about love, while at the end of the table, Louise Bourgeois and Artemisa Gentileschi would talk about violence in their art, a glass of wine in hand... A very memorable and colorful dinner!

Their favorite artworks

Print, Les Amants (The Lovers), René Magritte

Les Amants (The Lovers)

René Magritte

Print - 45 x 60 cm Print - 17.7 x 23.6 inch


Sculpture, Asclépios, Igor Mitoraj


Igor Mitoraj

Sculpture - 38 x 28 x 8 cm Sculpture - 15 x 11 x 3.1 inch


Print, Automne, Sonia Delaunay


Sonia Delaunay

Print - 91.3 x 65.9 x 0.2 cm Print - 35.9 x 25.9 x 0.1 inch


Painting, The Kid, Jef Aérosol

The Kid

Jef Aérosol

Painting - 41 x 78 x 0.3 cm Painting - 16.1 x 30.7 x 0.1 inch


Print, Constellation III, Joan Miró

Constellation III

Joan Miró

Print - 84 x 62 x 0.2 cm Print - 33.1 x 24.4 x 0.1 inch


Painting, They Were in Llandudno, Zena Blackwell

They Were in Llandudno

Zena Blackwell

Painting - 100 x 135 x 3.5 cm Painting - 39.4 x 53.1 x 1.4 inch


Painting, La rivière bleue (Nouvelle Calédonie), Jean-Pierre Al Courty

La rivière bleue (Nouvelle Calédonie)

Jean-Pierre Al Courty

Painting - 92 x 73 x 2 cm Painting - 36.2 x 28.7 x 0.8 inch


Sculpture, Bras monumental, Christophe Charbonnel

Bras monumental

Christophe Charbonnel

Sculpture - 197 x 53 x 52 cm Sculpture - 77.6 x 20.9 x 20.5 inch


Fine Art Drawings, Nu. Dessin à l'encre, André Derain

Nu. Dessin à l'encre

André Derain

Fine Art Drawings - 25 x 18 cm Fine Art Drawings - 9.8 x 7.1 inch


Painting, The Rose Vases, Bea Sarrias

The Rose Vases

Bea Sarrias

Painting - 50 x 61 x 4 cm Painting - 19.7 x 24 x 1.6 inch


Design, Vintage folding chair Ninfea, Gio Ponti

Vintage folding chair Ninfea

Gio Ponti

Design - 71 x 66 x 46 cm Design - 28 x 26 x 18.1 inch


Painting, Library 2, Sophie Dumont

Library 2

Sophie Dumont

Painting - 81 x 65 x 2 cm Painting - 31.9 x 25.6 x 0.8 inch


Painting, The more I see, Aba Linus

The more I see

Aba Linus

Painting - 86.4 x 63.5 x 2.5 cm Painting - 34 x 25 x 1 inch


Painting, Portrait of Bukunmi, Damilola Ilori

Portrait of Bukunmi

Damilola Ilori

Painting - 121.9 x 91.4 x 2.5 cm Painting - 48 x 36 x 1 inch


Sculpture, Violon Persistance, Arman

Violon Persistance


Sculpture - 61.5 x 27.5 x 12 cm Sculpture - 24.2 x 10.8 x 4.7 inch