Artfair Fatigue 2.0? @SteveGiovinco

Artfairs in New York: ADAA, The Armory Show, Volta, and the Deathstar

I shared a shuttle bus ride from Volta to the venerable Armory Show Sunday with a dealer/artist, where driving past the changing landscape (read: gleaming new nightmarish deathstar apartment blocks) of SoHo, the West Village and Chelsea, we both bemoaned the changes in the artworld—and to New York overall. First, let me say I am not one of those art fair haters.  It’s a terrible way to see art, granted, but it’s a necessary beast, and sometimes, exciting discoveries can be had.

Jocelyn Hobbie, Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, The Armory Show
Jocelyn Hobbie, Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, The Armory Show

There were some at Volta and at the ADAA—a stand-out was the Charles LeDray mini-show at Sperone Westwater, for example.

ABL=Always Be Looking

Also, maybe I’m in the minority here, but I really think the fairs should be a mandatory stop for ALL artists as a way to see what is out there, what’s selling, and who they might align themselves with (artists should also imagine their artwork on gallery walls or in booths—so look at art and the venues! ABL=Always Be Looking). But I don’t think it was just a recent stomach virus that soured my art fair experience.

The Frieze Effect

Maybe it’s just the “Frieze Effect,” where most top contemporary galleries migrate to Randell’s Island in May, draining the life out of the Armory.  Not there is nothing wrong with mid-range galleries really, but I miss seeing the new a Thomas Demand or Jeff Wall in March.  I don’t think there were any/many this time around. So back to my original conversation on the shuttle.  Enrique, a global art trekker, noted that London, with its uber-wealth, seemed to offer the best of the top contemporary works, while New York, including the fairs, got the next best ones (we’re talking in the multi-million dollar range—even $20 million). Are the New York fairs facing a declining cycle before the bubble bursts? But if that’s true what will replace them—selling online?

Volta One-Artist Approach

John Player, from Pierre-François Quellette Art Contemporain, Montreal, at Volta Show
John Player, from Pierre-François Quellette Art Contemporain, Montreal, at Volta Show

Volta’s single-artist approach is a good compromise.  It offers a bit of a context for work, avoiding the “one hit wonder,” or provides a respite from the Flashy, Shiny Thing seemingly created to stand out like a neon sign in Times Square.

ADAA Gets It

ADAA could be next in line as a fair that “gets it”.  I know it might be considered the more staid, quieter one, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The aisles are somewhat hushed; the size manageable; the location not in a crazy inaccessible outpost.  The work was a good mix of some classics, some secondary market–everyone has a few of those–and some contemporary cutting-edge work (Charles LeDray).  What’s not to like?  Overall, I think this could be my favorite fair-going experience.

Points for Messiness

The Independent I liked for its decidedly non-fair fair idea: let’s put a lot of stuff out but not worry about boundaries or neatness.  So it gets points for being messy. But wither the fairs—has burnout finally set in?  Of course, this is said every year by doomsayers.  This time around it feels a bit toasty to me, though. It’s hard to figure another twenty years of this to look forward to (remember when Chicago had THE fair or when the Armory started in the cramped, then funky Gramercy Hotel?).  Hummm… Volta Art Fair, NYLooking forward to May (and AIPAD in April).

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