Sanford L. Smith, Creator of Prestigious Art Fairs, Dies at 84

Sanford L. Smith, an art lover and entrepreneur who created some of New York’s most prestigious art and design fairs,generating millions of dollars in sales and drawing attention to previously overlooked areas of art, died on Saturday at a senior living facility in Manhattan. He was 84.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Jill Bokor, said.

Mr. Smith didn’t invent the art fair, but he made his events essential stops for both buyers and sellers. Owners of some Lower Manhattan galleries would spend tens of thousands of dollars to move their wares a few miles north to the Park Avenue Armory, where many of Mr. Smith’s shows were held.

Evan Snyderman, an owner of R & Company, a TriBeCa design gallery, said that at Salon Art + Design, one of Mr. Smith’s fairs, “we always reconnect with clients that we don’t see in other places — including New Yorkers who never come downtown.”

Some dealers reported selling more art in a long weekend at a Sanford Smith fair than in a whole year at their own galleries.

During his years in what he called “show business,” Mr. Smith ran more than 150 fairs, including the Fall Antiques Show, Modernism and the Outsider Art Fair. They were popular (in several cases attracting some 10,000 visitors over a three- or four-day weekend) as well as critical successes. The Times called his 2012 Salon “a museum in the making.”

Asked to describe his career in a 2022 interview for this obituary, Mr. Smith said, “I filled holes.” What he meant was that he found gaps in between what other art fairs offered, and created new events to meet those needs.

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