Monday, March 31, 2008

All's fair

top four: Views of works from the Bridgette Mayer Gallery at Red Dot this past Friday.
bottom: Allen Bently, Bridgette Mayer, me, and Ivan Stojakovic.

This was my first experience attending one of the smaller hotel fairs. The first thing I noticed is that three or more in a room is a crowd, excepting the larger suites. The limitations on what can be shown are apparent-you won't find any of the apartment-sized installations that are standards at the much larger Armory show, which was also took place this weekend, along with 6 or 7 others. Because of time constraints (I had to work both Saturday and Sunday) there was little time to get to see any of the fairs outside of Red Dot and a quick trip up to MoMA.

What I liked about going around Red Dot was the chance to see a lot of painting and other 2D works. Not only that, but you can walk into a room, turn around and literally have your nose two inches from someone's work you've only seen in magazine articles or books. Being able to examine works this close up is a treat. On the other hand, having various works so close together can be disconcerting and a slight detriment to some works that benefit from more space around them.

Then again, as we well know, the fairs aren't about optimal exhibiting and viewing of works, it's about the money and lots of it. From what I understand, prices for exhibitors at Red Dot paid at least $10,000 to be in the fair. That's not even including transportation of works, lighting, and any number of other incidentals. I'm sure the figures for the bigger fairs are much, much higher. That's the price that has to be paid if a gallery wants to get their artists good exposure to a big audience with lots of money to purchase art. Not to mention the possible contacts with curators, museum people, and future collectors. It's a real high-stakes crap-shoot and with today's economic climate, I'm willing to bet that there was a lot of money lost this weekend. Then again, my limited understanding about how money and art interact at fairs could make my guessing way off-base.

Art fairs might seem like big, three-ring circuses at times, but they are a fact of artistic life these days. There's no getting around that if you're affiliated with a gallery, you'll want your gallerist to be doing all they can to get your work out there and art fairs are another tool to do that. All of your success might not hinge on your work appearing in a fair, to think so would be incredibly naive, but they can have an effect on name and work recognition for the artists and galleries. Like the internet, art fairs are another tool in the artist's arsenal.
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