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Art Meets Island Life: An Interview with Sara Coriat, CAN Art Fair Ibiza’s Director of Exhibitor Relations and Communications

Nestled in the vibrant heart of Ibiza, the CAN Art Fair blends relaxation with contemporary art, attracting visitors from around the globe. Sara Coriat, the Director of Exhibitor Relations and Communications, brings a diverse background and passion for art to the fair, creating a unique and welcoming experience for gallerists, collectors, and visitors alike. From her beginnings in journalism to her transformative experiences in the international art scene, Sara shares her journey, the joys and challenges of her role, and the uniqueness of the “relaxed summer art fair” CAN Ibiza.

Sara Coriat standing in front of a painting at CAN Art Fair
Sara Coriat, Director of Exhibitor Relations and Communications - Photo by Maria Santos

Sara, thanks for taking the time to share your story. Tell us about your background. How did you get into the world of art fairs?

I started working at UVNT Art Fair in Madrid around five years ago. It’s an art fair that runs parallel to ARCO during the Madrid art week and has a local focus. Three years ago, we began this smaller project in Ibiza, sort of as a pop-up, which rapidly gained a lot of interest. Now it’s morphed into a full fair - the Contemporary Art Now Art Fair, often referred to as CAN. It’s the same small team that handles both fairs, with Madrid having the local focus and Ibiza an international one. I’ve worked on 4-5 fairs in Madrid and this would be the 3rd one in Ibiza.

Before that, I was a journalist at Elle magazine and freelanced for other publications like El Mundo, AD magazine or Tapas for a while. My interest in arts and culture then led me to take cultural management courses and a fellowship in the US at the Spanish Cultural Center in Miami. I spent two years there and that’s where I got exposed to the international art world, met my current boss, and eventually started working together back in Spain.

And now you’re fully in the art fair industry, can you explain a bit about your role and what you do leading up to the fairs?

My official title is Director of Exhibitor Relations and Communications. In Madrid, I handle both the commercial and curatorial parts of the fair, working with galleries to match their artists with the fair and the visitors of the fair. In Ibiza, we work closely with Sasha Bogojev, who curates the galleries. Often I work as the liaison with the different actors we work with, for example different kind of agencies we collaborate with, like a press agency.

I must say the visuals this year are really striking, do you work with a creative agency for that?

Yes and it’s a really great collaboration! We’ve been working with the same agency since the beginning of the fair. They usually provide us with different proposals and then we work based on that. When we first started working together, our idea for Ibiza was to start with the sun as the central theme—to celebrate the art fair of the summer. The first year it was the yellow, bright sun, last year it was more of a sunrise and now, for this year, it's a sunset. We’ve changed the gradients of the colors each year to fit the chosen sun phase. After this year’s sunset, we might move on to another theme for the year ahead. It’s definitely been a fun and evolving process—and we’re looking forward to seeing what we work on next.

Flags outside CAN Art Fair Ibiza
The iconic sun-theme of CAN Art Fair Ibiza - Photo by Yasmin Art Visual

Once one fair finishes, are you already thinking about the next one?

Yes, for sure! With this fair, luckily we finish in summer, which gives us a bit of a break. After the Madrid fair in mid-March, we immediately started preparing for Ibiza—we actually started talking to galleries for Ibiza from November last year. July is a bit more relaxed and we just focus on the essential things for Madrid, have a nice break in August, but come September, we’re back in full swing preparing for the next Madrid fair.

What’s the best and least favorite part of your job?

The best part is working with galleries, choosing artists, and looking at proposals. It's especially rewarding once we establish trust and open communication with a gallery and can shape what they bring to the fair together. At the end of the day we’re partners, and the fair’s goal is to support galleries in selling art. When a gallery relationship is new, it’s often a bit tricky to not step on their toes with our opinions—but even if initially they might not like our advice, we tend to know what works well here and and can help them cater to the collectors.

It’s hard to think of a least favorite part because I really love my job. If anything, it would be going into the nitty-gritty details of agreements, contracts, and paperwork—but it’s not something I do all the time, so I take it as part of the job.

How do you as CAN Art Fair Ibiza differentiate yourselves from other art fairs?

The Ibiza fair is relaxed and cool, it’s the art fair that opens the summer season before holiday time. Galleries often call it the “workation fair”. In terms of the exhibition times, it’s also laid-back, as the fair is only open for four hours a day, from 6 to 10 PM, allowing for a mix of work and leisure. Collectors and gallerists can enjoy the beach, have lunches with each other during the day, and party at night. You’ll often hear people say “it’s the only art fair where you’re welcome to attend the opening night in flip-flops”.

CAN Art Fair Opening Night yellow gallery booth with colorful paintings
CAN Art Fair Opening 2023 - Photo by Sayana Cairo

What do you recommend people do during the day before the fair starts?

We actually have pretty intense programming for collectors, designed by the Head of Collectors and VIPs. There’s also a press tour that I design with the press agency. Until now, Ibiza has been known more as a party destination, which it still very much is. So anyone that wants to party will find their space here.

However, after the first fair, we realized there was a hunger for a cultural program. In hindsight it seemed so obvious—there were many people interested in art, wealthy people, many collectors, and people from France, the UK, and Netherlands, with second residences that come for the summer. The fair has contributed to the feeling of an “art week” where many things happen in the same time period now.

Most galleries are hosting special events this week that are already starting now… You can check out of OFF Program and our guide on what to do. You won’t get bored—that’s for sure!

Are there any must-see galleries this year?

I won’t play favorites, they’re all great! But this year the main change is that we’re actively opening to new languages and regions, with galleries like Xippas Gallery from Paris, Madragoa from Lisbon or Fermay from Palma de Mallorca and a mix of others, while keeping the ties with our local collaborators. They’re all bringing proposals that fit well with our fair and we’re in for a treat with all of them!

Art Fair booth with pink walls and paintings
A booth at CAN Art Fair in 2023 - Photo by Maria Santos

What advice would you give to a small gallery wanting to join next year?

In general, our fair is by invitation only. Sasha, our curator, emails galleries directly to invite them. However, we’re always open to receiving new proposals. If a gallery sends us a proposal that fits the fair and tells a compelling story, we consider it. With only around 35 galleries, spots are limited, but even this year, there are 2-3 galleries in the ranks that started out with an email proposal that piqued our interest.

How do you deal with the rise of digital and social media as an art fair?

The older I get (and I still consider myself quite young), the more I realize how rapidly things change. Even at 34, I sometimes feel out of touch. My colleague running social media knows trends and platforms and content creators that I’ve never heard of.

I think it’s important to not sleep on platforms like TikTok, but leave it up to those who know what they are doing and let them create the strategy. Also, make sure to tailor your content to each channel—silly and goofy for TikTok, more curated for Instagram, clean and informative for the website.

I noticed, you also provide recommendations on things to do in Ibiza on your instagram, right?

Yes, we want to connect with the island beyond the art fair!

  • We have the OFF program featuring Balearic artists and exhibitions around the island. We worked together with the different city councils who lent us different exhibition spaces.

  • Then we have CANLocal, which highlights happenings on the island outside our organization. Things that aren’t organized by us, but that we love and think people should visit.

  • We also have a Special Projects section for the first time this year, where we’ve invited artists, outside the gallery general program, to come inside the fair and share their work.

  • And last but not least, we curated a sort of non-art-related local guide to Ibiza with our favorite picks of things like restaurants and beach club recommendations.

To close off on a more personal note, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’ve invested a lot in this project and the two art fairs so it’s truly become a part of me. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a reality where I am not somehow involved. Ten years seems so very far away and I have no idea where I will be. What I know for sure is that I love doing projects with artists and building connections in the art world. 

a question from card game we're not really strangers
Want to play a game of We're Not Really Strangers with us?

And to keep up with tradition, we have a “We’re Not Really Strangers” question as a bonus: When was the last time you surprised yourself?

Sometimes, just realizing where I am now catches me off guard. I didn't expect to be running such a significant initiative in my early thirties already. It’s a mix of feeling super small in the grand scheme of things and at the same time realizing the impact and effort involved in running an art fair and its implications on the larger art scene and community. It’s a surreal experience to be part of something bigger than myself.

CAN Art Fair Ibiza 2024
CAN Art Fair Ibiza 2024

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