Frieze New York 2023 will take place May 18-21 at the Shed in Hudson Yards. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh

Turon Travel Has Served the Art and Design World for Five Decades

For five decades, Turon Travel has served the art and design world by providing a boutique travel service to collectors, designers, gallery and museum professionals. Nicholas C. Christopher, president and founder, recently welcomed two of his children into the company and whom he expects will manage Turon far into the future. We sat down with him to discuss travel in the international art and design world, how things have changed over the decades, and what the future will hold. 

Let’s dive right in — what does the future of boutique international travel for art and design look like? 

Turon Travel will be 50 years old on May 12, 2029. It is hard for me to believe that so much time has passed, but we are as dynamic as we were on our opening day and evolving. Even with all the changes digitally and new artificial Intelligence programs emerging, at the top end of the art and design world people will still want and expect a white glove experience and will do so for years to come. Selling travel is essentially selling the future and I believe clients will always appreciate a helping hand.

Nicholas Christopher

It is interesting you mention the way technology is changing our lives. Digital shopping is ubiquitous these days and yet people still travel to fairs. It makes one ask the question: Why are international art and design fairs so popular with collectors?

Art and design fairs are usually 3–4 days long and offer a wide selection of work by thousands of makers and artists. A large group of people with similar aesthetic interests not only find an impressive selection of works to view and often purchase, but they also have the opportunity to catch up with friends, get a view of the current trends, and network to their heart’s content.  The dinners and parties are also fun.

Which are the most popular fairs for business for you?

We work with many, many domestic and international fairs. All these fairs have their own identity and have a very dedicated client base. If one were to measure the most popular, one would certainly put the Art Basel and Frieze fair portfolios in their own category. These fairs are high-powered, multi-city events that generate a great deal of excitement for both the art and design industry and the public. The second group would be EXPO Chicago; The Armory Show; TEFAF; Art Singapore and Dallas Art Fair. These fairs service cities with great expertise and none of them can be discounted. My answer would be that they are all popular and keep us very busy.

Do you have a favorite art and design fair you like to visit and if so, why?

I try to attend all the fairs on an intermittent basis, so I would not say I have an all-time favorite. I would admit that there are several domestic and international cities I enjoy visiting and I always work visits to those cities around the fair schedules.

Are there new fair markets emerging? What do you think is driving this growth? 

Asia is where all the new action is these days which is evidenced by major design and art galleries opening new locations to attract new Asian collectors. Many Asian destinations are having a fair ‘renaissance’ with cities like Seoul, Singapore and Taipei immediately coming to mind. Of course, Art Basel Hong Kong is back on track with a future ahead of it. This is being driven by an increase in greater affluence, an appreciation of the arts, and a desire to view the works of local, Asia-specific artists.

Established in 1979, Turon Travel has over 40 years of experience. We are a full-service company and our staff is here to assist you with all of your travel inquiries. 

Art Basel was the first to merge art and design fairs and it was instantly successful. Why do you think this makes sense?

This merger was a natural transition for the fairs. Art and design are both creative endeavors that are appreciated and collected. Bringing both into focus under the auspices of these fairs just helps complete an age-old aesthetic. A knowledgeable collector collects everything of interest. This merger increases the possibilities.

Tell us how you started your travel business.

We opened in SoHo, New York in 1979. My wife and I were visiting galleries in the neighborhood and along with my sister-in-law, we realized that SoHo was missing an essential service — access to easy, efficient travel arrangements. The neighborhood welcomed us with open arms and many of the residents felt we helped define SoHo as a full-fledged community, even though it was already a thriving neighborhood. In time we started working with museums and special interest groups. We were also approached by several well-known art fairs to help. My wife and I are well-versed in the arts and it is not difficult to actualize our clients’ interests into great excursions.

How has the business evolved and changed over the years?

Way back in 1979, we used two large books of flight schedules. There were up to 4 airfares and all airlines offered the same pricing and rules. People tended to choose according to their schedules. We transitioned to reservation computers 2 years later, plugged into one of several reservation systems giving us full access to all airline scheduling and pricing. Everything else was a phone call or possibly a Telex.

Fast forward to 2023, Turon is fully computerized with an active website and our own proprietary hotel reservation system, based on a full retail model. All our inventory is live and accessible to our customers, 24/7, 365. We have come a long way for sure!

Beyond technology, our methods are simple. We have built long-term relationships with hotel partners and travel suppliers. Working with them has become second nature. We have an excellent business reputation, and we approach hotels with a general understanding of who we are and what our clients expect. Our partner working relationships require a lower rate structure with agreement on limits to the severity of reservation rules. We always work to the benefit of our client base, working months if not years in advance of events. Don’t forget, the Venice Biennale is only 1 year away!