The doors are open at The Manchester Contemporary, the fourth instalment of the art fair, and both galleries and event organisers are already sensing that 2012 may be a landmark year in establishing it as a ‘must attend’ event.

Continuing to attract first-time participants, this year including Rob Tufnell, former curator at Turner Contemporary and now a commercial gallerist in London, the fair is physically bigger than it has been before. However, through a process of careful gallery selection, critically-engaged events, and a dialogue with the artists, artist-led spaces and galleries in the city, the fair can also be seen to be growing in other ways.

Laura Mansfield, of WORKS | PROJECTS gallery in Bristol, explains: “This is the first year that we’re seeing fringe events develop, such as our satellite exhibition at the Rogue artist-led studio space. There’s great potential here for our artists, but we’re now also looking at the Contemporary as an opportunity for us to interact with the networks of artists and galleries that are already here.”

That WORKS | PROJECTS, artists such as Richard Woods and Andy Holden, come to sit under the same roof as London’s Man and Eve and Gateshead’s Workplace Gallery amongst many more, is down to the curatorial guidance of Paulette Terry Brien and Laurence Lane of International 3. There is also the support of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS), helping to ensure the fair delivers on its purpose of enticing a diverse base of potential and actual collectors in the region.

Mark Doyle, CAS’s head of collector development in the North West, suggests that Manchester Contemporary is a chance for barriers to be broken down between the public and the contemporary art world. He says: “The fair can help people make decisions about the art they might want to buy, just by making the expertise of the galleries available to them. There’s a myth that gallerists are unfriendly, or only interested in speaking to rich people, which isn’t true. The galleries here are passionate about their artists, and pleased to speak to visitors about their work.”

One friendly gallerist is Dave Hoyland, director of Seventeen in East London. He returns home for the weekend having been brought up in nearby Ramsbottom and, as well as admitting that his return to Manchester assuages his guilt for pursuing a career down south, he is also upbeat about the possibilities The Manchester Contemporary holds for his gallery and others like it.

He says: “Last year, [collector] Robert Devereux said that there wasn’t a fair that fulfilled a similar role to Zoo Art Fair, but that purely showcased the work being done by British artists, as opposed to having an international focus. I think that the Contemporary achieves that, letting people see a broad spectrum of work from across the UK. This year has already been good for us, selling two pieces of work at the preview, but it’s also great because people from other galleries and museums just come along and take a look.”

One of Seventeen’s artists, Abigail Reynolds, returns to the city in a show at Manchester City Art Gallery in a month’s time. With her work priced between £300 for a print in an edition of just ten, to an original at £3000, it’s not just the calibre of artist the Contemporary seeks to showcase that sees their promises being fulfilled. By maintaining a ‘something for everyone’ ethos, both in the price and range of the work on offer, this year’s fair is showing all the signs of being a mission accomplished.

The Manchester Contemporary continues at Spinningfields, Manchester, until 30 September.