Friday, March 23, 2012

Kid in a Candy Shop

Fountain Art Fair, New York City Arts Week

Arts Week in New York City is a game of personalities, with each art fair playing a different role in a match of who’s who. It was a busy few days earlier this month as Marc and I ran around the city reacquainting ourselves with the fairs we had been to before, and getting our first impressions of the ones we’d never visited.

Starting first at
The Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94 we went from booth to booth and took a look at what artist or artists each gallery brought to the fair. Split into two sections – contemporary and modern – it felt like two different worlds. Abuzz with living artists and a younger demographic of visitors, the Contemporary portion of the fair was all chitchat and handshakes, quite a few smiles and nods. The Modern section, with its fill of 20th century masters, was hushed and serious. The Contemporary pier also seemed to have more to offer - in the form of Discussion Panels and such; and for a certain Gallery Manager (hint: me) there was an extra bonus: the focus this year was Nordic art. Having spent a year in Copenhagen, Denmark and another in Gothenburg, Sweden, I was in Scandinavian heaven. That said, there weren’t many surprises at Armory. Some great art, some not as great art, and most of the art shown (from someone who keeps a keen eye on the art scene) was expected, there were only a handful of artists that had found their way into the fair that were a pleasant surprise. For an art fair that has gotten pretty negative reviews the past few years, it seems that The Armory was a step ahead of where it’s been recently – and the expected works were still a sight to see.

And so the day went on…with a shuttle bus to
Volta (at a hotel in midtown) where a few of our fellow Boston galleries were showing. The vibe was a bit looser, had a bit of an edge. More unexpected works, a fresher taste. One artist Marc and I were really drawn to was Mats Pehrson who splits his time between his native Stockholm, Sweden and New York City. His Contemplation works (photo right) are a series of mixed media pieces that originated as photographs taken from his NYC window looking down at passersby on the street. By replacing the city landscape with a neutral abyss the works really focus in on the people, their stance, interactions, facial expressions – the work, in one word: intriguing. It said so much about the human condition in the simplest ways.

The edge of Volta got a bit sharper with our final stop of the day at Scope. Housed under a large temporary pavilion tent there seemed to be an overall theme to most gallery booths: overwhelm the eyes. Of the three shows, Scope definitely had the most going on (whether that’s good or bad)– a bit more buzz, a bit more flare, with neon, neon and more neon and a distinct influence of street art in a lot of the booths. Again, Marc and I stumbled upon an artist that both of us couldn’t take our eyes off of – MARCK.
With what he calls 'Video Sculptures', MARCK places women in small-contained sites, in this case water, and videotapes them as they move around in the claustrophobic space. Due to the way the works are created the pools of water feel less like a video and more as if they are right there on the wall in front of the viewer. The piece Turkish Bath (photo right) made me really uncomfortable as a woman, I felt trapped right along with her – a sentiment that many women around me seemed to feel as well, but one that Marc (and perhaps other men) didn’t get from the piece. And that’s what is so great about Arts Week – it’s a fantastic time to see what is out there, which artists’ careers are starting to bust open, and where 13FOREST Gallery and our artists fit into the mix. That night we ventured to Brooklyn for a loft gallery show that featured a few of our very own Boston artists, including Dana Woulfe. The scene was nice and relaxed, perfect after a busy day in Manhattan.

Saturday found us at the Independent (image left) located in the former Dia building in Chelsea. My gut reaction in cahoots with a bit of later contemplation is that Independent was the most successful of all the shows we went to that weekend. Gone were the booth walls – which give one a feel of being cattle, ushered from booth to booth. Instead, the white walls and high ceilings gave a breezy air to the fair, one that imitated an almost easy feel, where the galleries weren’t pitted against each other for attention and sales, but working together in a shared space to showcase their artists. The work, for the most part, was strong – and the way in which it was curated and displayed (due to the lack of walls) really benefited both the artworks and the viewer. From Independent we walked across town to Fountain – a much younger fair, with much younger galleries and artists, almost like a little sibling of Scope - it was a big change from the earlier fairs. Squished into booths was work by a range of different artists - there was a more urban feel, a grit, and a nice atmosphere of people who were excited to be there, excited to be showing their work – money didn’t seem to be the talk of the town, unlike with the blue chip art fairs on the other side of town. It was the type of place where you bumped into mutual friends of friends, and we got to catch up with 13FOREST artist Scott Chasse (pictured right) who was showing his work with Brooklyn gallery GSpot. We ended our fair tour with PooL at the Flatiron Hotel which felt more like open studios than an art fair, with an artist or two showing their work in hotel rooms across three floors.

So, after a weekend of art fair hopping, back I went to Boston and to 13FOREST Gallery as Marc spent a few more days exploring the last bits of art festivities and driving down the Eastern coast to DC, stopping at Philadelphia and Baltimore on the way. Stop by the blog sometime next week to hear all about his adventures at FiberPhiladelphia, the American Visionary Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Gallery of Art.

Scope Art Fair, New York City Arts Week

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