14 March 2010

Artists, academics, administrators, auctioneers, benefactors, bloggers, collectors, consumers, critics, curators, editors, educators, gallerists, historians, museum professionals, writers, and the public all play a role in interpreting the value and meaning of art (monetarily, metaphysically and professionally). Not unlike other industries, the art world has its own types of events which collectively shape the product, production and dissemination of art. Of all events (openings, exhibitions, symposia, biennials etc) the art fair seems the most overtly commercial, where galleries stand side by side competing for the art world’s attention and hopefully, investment. I visited two very different art fairs last week and learned a lot about the specific type of value I look to derive from art itself, but raised many more questions about art as commodity and the forums used to generate commerce.

The entrance to the Independent – "Please god make tomorrow better" Claire Fontaine

The Independent was packaged as a hybrid art fair organized by gallerists Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook in what use to be the Dia:Chelsea building on west 22nd. The approach and organization of the temporary exhibition was similar to a massive group show of galleries instead of a group show about artists. The show split the four floors between 40 galleries and was free and open to the public during the NY art fair weekend. I found it refreshing that the galleries and organizers where able to allow for a fair amount of presentation and coherence within the open and relatively un-programmed floor spaces. Each floor used some simple layout and temporary walls (and sometimes exhibit objects) to differentiate itself from the last. In the stairwell, a Dan Flavin light installation connected each floor together while making everyone look blue.

Dan Flavin Installation


The crowd at the opening was young and fashionable. If they weren’t young they must have been young at heart because I don’t remember seeing any misfits of the profile. The great thing about any young and burgeoning scene is the intense nature of it’s participants. Everyone I saw at the opening whom I knew and chatted with, eventually left me to GO CHECKOUT THE WORK.

Giant inflatable (and deflating) rat reciting the ABC's from Glengary GlenRoss

Gabby watching Ryan Trecartin at the Elizabeth Dee reinstallation of "P.opular (section ish)", 2009

Detail, Ryan Trecartin "P.opular (section ish)", 2009

"360 illusion II" by Jeppe Hein – two rotating mirrored planes turn the room top side down and back again

DMC12 aka the DeLorean - for Duncan Campbell's documentary film "Make It New John"

My least favorite room was a collaborative effort from the high-end design retail store Moss and independent art curators, Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner. The room was the only “exclusive” room in the show and was presented as an exhibit within an exhibit. It was titled “this that & then some” and paired design objects with art objects and presented them as a grouping. My initial distaste of the mini-exhibit did not stem from a dislike of the objects or their pairings, which were harmless and seemed about as related as anything else in the fair – it came from a deeper discomfort with the portrayal of design as equal to or symbiotic with art object. It was as if design was bullying into the art world through a hollow and arranged marriage with little meaning or respect for either partner. It really seemed to disservice both the art/design objects and the work that had to go into them, because the work individually was beautiful and good.

Stanze di Raffaello II, Rome by Thomas Struth and Illuminated Crucifix by Michal Fronek & Jan Nemecek

"Untitled" (cube) by Sol LeWitt and "The Other: square side table" by Ilse Crawford

My favorite work by far was a video by Jordan Wolfson that portrayed coke bottles filled with milk marching across the screen through an abandoned urban landscapes. There while a female voice reciting her inner thoughts aloud and occasionally taking vocal stage direction from a quieter male voice. The coke bottles changed in number but continually walk through the landscape making a gravely crunching noise as they go. Sometimes the orientation of the screen begins to rotate lazily as you tumble through the dark recesses of this woman’s mind. It was trippy, but gripping and real.

Still from "Con Leche" by Jordan Wolfson

I left the Independent and headed uptown in a rickshaw driven by JC, who was wearing a hot pink polka-dot suit and a tinsel cape. If you ever see him around you should go for a ride. He took me to the Armory Show on west 55th for a deal because he is super nice and said he said he was getting a little bored. On the way there we talked about art and a zombie video he was shooting in Bushwick. This only happens in New York.

Going for a ride on the nicest day — ever.


If you google “art fair” the Armory Show comes up third in the results list, not exactly scientific but enlightening none the less. The Armory Show is a massive event, located on the piers 92 and 94, drawing thousands of visitors at $30 a ticket. It is America’s “leading” art fair and pulls both international artists (or their galleries) and international visitors in waves and hordes. You can find unknown or lesser known artists in a little white cubicle right next to the biggest headline grabbing art stars. And maybe that is the problem. There is no way to navigate this fair in any meaningful way beyond the mode of shopping. You are in an art mall, the difference between this and a museum is that you can buy this work and you can take pictures and there are no security guards to stop you.

Welcome to the art mart.

Olafur Eliasson's photos of vehicles and crossings

Taking the opportunity to reflect. hahaha

british bad boys g&g

"Cinemap – eleven films on request" Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Not to say it was all bad. One of the highlights for me was the Josephine Meckseper installation at Elizabeth Dee’s space at the Armory Show. It was an extremely surface oriented installation comprising of mirrored, shiny, pop, facist, and sexist (or sexy) items, and I immediately felt and appreciated the irony of the situation and it’s juxtaposition at the show.

Josephine Meckseper

Josephine Meckseper

During fair weekend the Armory is the main event and all the other events seem to be the side shows. The Armory is simply a massive “establishment”. It is a necessary and important event that brings some of the world’s best artists and galleries to the greater NY public – but I don’t think that is good enough. I bring a lot expectation to the table when considering the two shows, one is established, rich and ticketed, the other young, open, and free. The Armory Show has a slew of corporate sponsors, there was an Acura SUV next to the stairs, the only car at the Independent was a Delorean and I don’t think you could buy it (unverified). I imagine I am the wrong demographic for the Armory Show: I am not rich, I do not collect art, and the value I derive from art tends to be for creative, inspirational and sometimes professional reasons. The two shows couldn’t have felt more opposite and I wonder if it is time to replace the outmoded, unspecific art mall and create something in between the two fairs? Can a niche, curated art fair remain small and focused, but function well monetarily for the gallerists and subsequently the artists they represent? This raises some questions for me about how to be profitable in the art world, I imagine it is no small task or even one that can have accurate formulas or models for projection. I guess the simplest way to look at it is that first, the art is created. Everything else that follows is some form of commerce of that art’s secondary markets. So what can we try next?

"the handle comes up the hammer comes down" by doug aitken

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