In Conversation with Enter Art Fair Founder Julie Leopold

Those who regularly follow the news section on Aesence may remember that I visited the Enter Art Fair in Copenhagen last year (find my review here). I was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere and the large number of galleries exhibiting works with a minimalist aesthetic. The Enter Art Fair positions itself as an innovative platform for contemporary art and has established itself as Scandinavia’s largest international art fair over the last 6 years. The four-day event offers more than 20,000 visitors an impressive and diverse presentation of international galleries and artists.

I will be visiting the fair again this year, and I am already looking forward to the 96 galleries and their artists who will be taking part. I am pleased that I recently had the opportunity to talk to Julie Leopold, the founder and CEO of the fair. Julie has organized some of the most successful art and lifestyle events in Denmark for over two decades, including Code Art Fair, Bedre Bolig and Designer Forum.

In 2019, she finally founded the Enter Art Fair, with the vision of making Copenhagen a creative and commercial hub for the global art industry. I spoke to her about her vision, how she creates this special and welcoming atmosphere at the event, and what advice she has for galleries and artists who are attending the fair for the first time.

Julie, nice to meet you! You founded the Enter Art Fair in 2019 and it has grown rapidly ever since. What was your original vision for the fair and how has it developed since its inception? What was your most important learning from that time?

Julie: In 2019, I recognized the need for an art fair that brought together Danish and international galleries, along with collectors, institutions, foundations, and artists from around the world. I knew Copenhagen was the ideal city for this endeavor. Having organized lifestyle fairs for eighteen years and developed a passion for the arts industry, I was inspired by renowned international art fairs like Art Basel and Frieze. My vision was to transform Copenhagen into a global hotspot for art, creating an annual event that would draw the international art community to Denmark. 

Our fair started in a 3,000 m² tent on Refshaleøen, presenting 35 international galleries and drawing 6,000 visitors. Today, we welcome over 96 galleries from over 20 countries, and more than 20,000 visitors in the 10,000 m² historic Lokomotivværkstedet which is one of Copenhagen’s most dynamic event spaces. This remarkable growth highlights our success in fostering a vibrant and engaging atmosphere. 

From the outset, launching a completely new art fair in less than six months in 2019 presented significant challenges. The following year, the pandemic introduced new obstacles with its restrictions. Our ability to overcome these challenges was due to our adaptability as a young and dynamic fair, always seeking new ways to innovate and solve problems. As a new business, every hurdle was an opportunity to refine our approach and avoid stagnation.

Julie Leopold, 2024. Photo by Davy Denke / Rytter & Denke
Julie Leopold, 2024. Photo by Davy Denke / Rytter & Denke
Impressions from Enter Art Fair 2023, Photo Julie Nymann and Frida Gregersen
Impressions from Enter Art Fair 2023, Photo Julie Nymann and Frida Gregersen

During my last visit, I found exactly the kind of atmosphere you were talking about to be very relaxed and welcoming. How do you and your team manage to maintain this inviting atmosphere while being so well-organized and professional?

Julie: A key strategy has been our commitment to doing things our way, rather than merely following the standard practices of other art fairs. From the start, I have placed great emphasis on finding the right venue that ensures a good atmosphere and ambiance for both exhibitors and visitors. We maintain a constant focus on making sure that the layout and environment are functional, welcoming and interesting.

Our Scandinavian ethos of welcoming everyone to ‘enter’ the art world resonates with an international audience. Galleries, artists, collectors, and curious art enthusiasts return to the fair each year to network, find inspiration, and invest in art. I am fortunate to work with an incredible team that continually pushes me in new directions. It is crucial that we remain curious, stay updated on the latest trends, and adapt to the changes in our society.

The number of participating galleries has tripled since 2019. Are you aiming to continue to grow, or is there a limit planned at which you will say: ‘This is the ideal number of galleries for the Enter Art Fair’?

Julie: The number of participating galleries at Enter Art Fair has tripled since 2019, reflecting our success and the strong interest from the art community. Our focus is always on evolving, but not necessarily by increasing the number of galleries. Initially, we set our sights on having 80 galleries, and today we are proud to host 96.

We believe this is an ideal size, providing a rich array of offerings while remaining approachable and enjoyable, especially over a couple of days. Equally important is our commitment to ensuring there is a thriving market for every gallery we accept and that we can uphold our high standard of personalized service.

What criteria does a gallery have to “fulfill” to be accepted by you and the committee, and what characteristics distinguish them from the other applicants?

Julie: We collaborate with industry leaders dedicated to shaping a meaningful path in the international art world. Our Curatorial Committee rigorously selects galleries based on international standards, ensuring diverse and high-quality representation across all disciplines, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, glass, NFTs, video, and more.

Reviewing applications is always exciting, and narrowing down participants is a challenge. We aim to present today’s zeitgeist, and the galleries we accept must meet this vision and our quality standards. We devote significant time to evaluating new galleries to see if they fit our roster and if they have the potential for success at the fair. Ensuring the success of galleries and their artists is crucial to us. Everything we do aims to enhance the visitor experience and strengthen the partnership between the industry and art enthusiasts.

A key strategy has been our commitment to doing things our way, rather than merely following the standard practices of other art fairs.

What advice would you give to galleries and artists taking part in the Enter Art Fair for the first time?

Julie: For galleries and artists new to Enter Art Fair, prepare thoroughly to showcase your best work and actively engage with visitors to build valuable connections. Promote your participation through social media and stay open-minded to feedback, using the fair as an opportunity to learn and grow. I also recommend engaging with the other participating galleries and visiting the local Danish galleries to get more insight on the Scandinavian art market. 

What does a typical working day look like for you and your team in preparation for the next edition at the end of August?

Julie: A typical working day for me and my team in preparation for the upcoming Enter Art Fair involves a mix of strategic planning and hands-on tasks. We start the day coordinating with galleries and curators, managing production and logistics to ensure a seamless setup. Throughout the day, we engage in meetings with partners and sponsors, review marketing and promotional strategies, and address any emerging challenges to ensure everything is on track for a successful event.

It’s important for us to be available for the galleries and support them leading up to the fair. Not only via phone and email, but also by visiting them in their galleries, at international art fairs and events. 

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Julie: I’m excited to welcome the more than 20,000 visitors to Enter Art Fair and provide them with the best opportunity for experiencing and acquiring contemporary art. I’m also thrilled about making Enter Art Fair part of a larger event for the entire city, ‘4 Days of Art,’ putting it on par with 3 Days of Design and Copenhagen Fashion Week. We aim to be a must-visit destination on the global art calendar, fostering meaningful connections, inspiring creativity, and contributing to the global conversation on contemporary art.

Additionally, I’m particularly excited to see how our new section for galleries featuring digital art will be received. We’ve invested considerable effort into highlighting this part of the industry, especially through our public art program titled “BETWIXT,” which this year also focuses on digital art. Ensuring the success of galleries and their artists is crucial to us, and we hope this new focus will resonate with our audience and further enhance the visitor experience.

The sixth edition of the Enter Art Fair will take place from 29. August – 01. September 2024 at Lokomotivværkstedet in Copenhagen.

More about Enter Art Fair

Aesence Review: Between Simplicity And Complexity: A Review Of Enter Art Fair 2023

Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.