March Madness—Art Fairs Galore

March 12th, 2010 § 0 comments

Who knew that going to art fairs could be fun? This past weekend nyc hosted the March madness of art fairs, openings, special events, and self-indulgent parties, all of which were crunched into the span of only four days. Each fair opened lazily at noon, and all were strewn carelessly around Manhattan. Trying to make an appearance during visiting hours at every event felt like the scavenger hunt from My Man Godfrey: completely absurd. Divvying up my weekend days, grouping the shows by like neighborhoods, organizing the fairs by importance, armed with my makeshift press pass, and resigned to the fact that one person can only see so much, I set out.

Without rushing or suffering from visual overload, I actually found that while I ruined my feet for the weekend, I enjoyed the whole spectacle. Not out to buy or to mingle either, I simply wandered the fairs with my camera and my curiosity. I ran into a few friends, saw Nick Cave at the Armory and Fred Wilson at The Art Show, talked with a good many gallery workers, and watched a tourist knock over a sculpture in his great hast to photograph a brightly painted naked woman. Though the champagne at the Armory cost sixteen dollars a glass, the people and even the shows themselves felt less ostentatious than last year.

(A William Kentridge collage from The Nose)

William Kentridge

The fairs differed visually based on the price tag associated with the event. The locations seemed to dictate the type of galleries invited to participate, which in turn influenced the artwork shown. The upper east side ADAA show, located in the beautiful Park Avenue Armory building, with its exquisitely designed press packet, was sparsely populated by a typical upper east side crowd. The artwork ranged from polished and famous to overworked and dull.

(Charles Long & Roxy Paine)

Charles Long

Roxy Paine

The Armory at Pier 94 is the only location that has grown and expanded to such an extent that it now overwhelms and annoys, but because of its scale the work shown does offer the greatest range. If you wanted to simply sample a bit of what all the fairs have to offer, Pier 94 is the only place you could do it.

(Moyra Davey & Polly Morgan)

Moyra Davey

Polly Morgan

Volta NY, oddly located on the 15th floor directly across from the Empire State Building, was my favorite. The show seemed to be a perfect blend of innovation and a mature sense of making. While the work was predominantly fun, it managed not to fall into a grunge aesthetic, having instead a youthful and experimental vibe.

(Paul Pretzer & a film still by Kathleen Herbert)

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Kathleen Herbert

Pulse NY echoed Volta’s general aesthetic, except that Pulse was located in a hideous building along the West Side Highway, was poorly organized and badly laid out. The work was bolder but in a gimmicky sense, and while it was colorful and outrageous like an McQueen gown, it lacked an apparent reason for being so.

(Adriana Duque & Devorah Sperber)

Adriana Duque Daniel & Felipe

Devorah Sperber

Scope, presented in a large tent near the Lincoln center, was dismissed for its low quality galleries and artists, but was actually quite appealing as a bookend for the weekend. The work, though student-like in quality and more decorative in content, was mostly small, intimate, and at times the least self-consciously “art.” Scope’s overall sense of hesitation invited a different kind of viewing. It felt more like it was asking questions rather than telling you what is good and tasteful.

(Jill Sylvia & Adrian Tranquilli)

Jill Sylvia

Adrian Tranquilli

Not expecting any of the fairs to be anything other than what they were helped me enjoy them and the art they showed. Surprisingly, all the fairs felt welcoming to anyone who showed signs of interest if not money. Though exceedingly glad this type of weekend only comes (hopefully) once a year—and it happened to coincide with our prematurely warm weather—I left the last fair feeling motivated to work, make, and show, after seeing so much of all those things.

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