Masterpiece London

A previous Masterpiece London event. Image credit: Andy Barnham via Masterpiece.

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The ongoing toll of Covid, the quest for data and environmental concerns are encouraging the move to digital ticketing at the expense of the physical invite.

The London Art Fair (April 20-24), one of many events that previously served its exhibitors with boxes of card invitations, was focused this year on digital tickets, asking dealers to distribute complimentary tickets by email and attendees to register their invitations online.

Masterpiece London (June 30-July 6) has also made all its invitations digital, a move the fair said was prompted by “visitor feedback, exhibitor demand and our sustainability objectives”.

This year the fair, owned by MCH Group, is sending out the invitations itself on behalf of its exhibitors. It said this system will benefit dealers as it makes the most of fairgoers’ data.

According to the fair: “Exhibitors and partners can manage their guestlists online, nominating clients to receive invitations. Our system checks for duplicates to ensure that each guest receives an invitation in their name for the highest level of VIP access for which they have been nominated.”

It adds: “Exhibitors will also benefit from new post-fair analytics to understand which of their guests attended.”

Participants at TEFAF Maastricht and Frieze Masters said those fairs are also emphasising digital rather than paper tickets.

In some cases, the number of tickets issued to exhibitors is reported to have decreased, though they may rise again as covid restrictions ease. Masterpiece said it has increased allocations of ‘patron’ and preview invitations since its last in-person event in 2019.

Another event changing its ticketing policy recently was London’s Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea. Starting last autumn, it re-introduced paid-for tickets as well as visitor registration in line with test-and-trace requirements.

According to organiser Jane Juran: “There was a modicum of initial shock that tickets needed to be booked and paid for, but this has worn off.”

Opening day tickets have sold out at the past two fairs and Juran says that “a better proportion of serious buyers” was the result. She added: “In the face of dramatically increasing costs to organisers since January this year, charging for entry has also allowed us to maintain lower stand prices for exhibitors at this and the recent winter fair.”

For the next Battersea, opening this week (May 4-8), the fair is providing exhibitors with complimentary printed tickets valid from Thursday, and is offering two-for-one online booking for Friday and Saturday. Opening day tickets continue to be paid for.