Monday, March 7, 2011

Art Fairs in Review

It was a fun weekend at the Art Fairs, the Moving Image, PULSE Contemporary Art and the Armory Show which was my favorite venue of the three.  A lot of walking around and eyeballing beautiful works of art and people popping all around. 

My analysis of the events if you are interested will be published in the upcoming at this link, Visual Overture Magazine

For those who were unwilling or able to read my brief review in Visual Overture, I'm posting it here albeit after the fact. 

Be sure to click the Visual Overture link above and see some of the photos I took at the events.

Springtime in the air and art fair season in New York City rolled in and out and, there were many interesting revelations at three of the most popular art fairs in New York City, starting with sunshine and ending for this writer in the rain at the close of the weekend.  It was a coming back to the art fair world after a long, long hiatus.  When was the last time I attended such a venue?  Twenty years ago?  My last visit to a large art fair was at the Jacob Javitz Art Fair that takes place in November in New York City.  Remembering back to that art fair, it was a huge independent artists' venue that seemed endless. It was my first experience attending art fairs and I loved it.  I left the Javitz after swirling around in the crowds and promised myself to return the next day but as it turned out, I did not.

Fast forward now to this weekends' three fairs of interest:  PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, the Armory Art Fair and Moving Images, each with a day to themselves and each revealed some interesting trends.  I had no expectations per se about this weekend's events and found my first stopover at PULSE a sedate one.  The crowd was homogenous.  I prefer the mix you find in New York City, people from all ethnic groups.  I decided to attend mid afternoon and arrived around 4PM midway between open and close for the event.  It seemed to be sporadically filled with people at first, here and there in the well lit and articulated show spaces but the crowd thinned out after a while. 

Walking in I recognized one person I knew from a gala I attended several years ago, who was at that time an Associate Curator at the Brooklyn Museum.  I decided not to go over to him instead, I swirled into the cluster of people who were in the entryway area and started observing the paintings and photography.  Most of the artists were established and not from the so called "emerging" group, however there were several artists in the emerging category.  I found their work to be interesting and, they were sweet to chat and allow photos to be taken.

At PULSE it was staid, a little dry and empty in some sense of the word although, I did meet some very wonderful people there, I left unsatisfied.  Although I thought I had no expectations, I did expect more of something.  A more diversified crowd?  A something more that did not however materialize.  More beautiful art?  There was a certain daintiness I perceived in the work at PULSE, perhaps because of the smaller space; the work seemed smaller and fussy in a certain way in comparison to what I was about to see the following day at the Armory Art Fair.

Interesting to note, PULSE had several "emerging" artists.  Exhibiting with Jen Bekman Gallery and elsewhere, however at the Armory it was strictly blue chip guys.  Jen Bekman's emerging artist, Michelle Muldrow had exhibited elsewhere but it was her first time at PULSE.  The artist later explained that,”…as for the work at Jen Bekman's, I believe they sold 7 pieces. The funny thing about the fairs is that unlike a gallery show, the collectors can buy and take home the piece right then and there! So some pieces remain on the wall for pick up later and some leave right at the moment of the sale.

Michelle Muldrow went further to say, "I was very excited to see … (my) body of work was so well received.  I have been showing in California and have had several solo shows … and have had strong sales, but breaking into the New York market and with my new series, I am extremely happy.  I have a solo show with Jen Bekman Gallery in May, so this is definitely a good lead up for the show."

Jen Bekman, Director of Jen Bekman Gallery appears to be on the leading edge in terms of having the foresight to have her emerging artists in PULSE ahead of the pack.  Again, most artists exhibiting at PULSE are artists already established in their careers. 

Another delightful artist I spoke with, Lauren Fensterstock, with Sienna Gallery - SG Projects, told me that she was excited to be at PULSE and considered herself to be emerging although she had exhibited at other art fairs.  It was her first time at PULSE.

[Incidentally, I noticed and was surprised to see a young, female photographer that I admire with three of her prints prominently placed at PULSE.  Manjari Sharma, blogger and photographer's rise from blogger to the PULSE venue seems a rather swift one.  Her contribution came from a shower series she took of young people, no nudity in the three photos at PULSE however portrait views only. NOTE:  I did not meet or speak with this artist, Arlissa.]

The worst thing at PULSE?  A garbage bin bagged in black plastic, open and smack dab in the middle of two works of art on the wall in the center of the central walkway. 

The best thing at PULSE?  Excellent lighting for the most part, lovely art work and some very pleasant exhibitors.

My second stop on the following day, Saturday, was The Armory Art Show.   But if the PULSE event felt weak, the Armory Show was strong and wild in terms of the overriding quantity and beauty of the art and the multitude, thousands of event goers to swirl around with.

The Armory Show which did not highlight any emerging artists that I know of had contemporary art from around the world. Galleries from everywhere were represented.  I saw Gerhard Richter and Kehinde Wiley, Romare Bearden and many, many other big guns.  It was thrilling to see the expansively huge extent of this festival and, I highly recommend visitors to NYC to attend the Armory Art Fair if possible when it takes place next year.   People of every stripe, age, gender and ethnic background swirled around in a packed space expansive though it was, thousands of people were there and it was a love fest of beauty.  Intensity of artistic beauty in such a setting is intoxicating, one masterpiece after another in every medium and context, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, mixed media and on and on.  It all seemed beautiful.  Yes, it was very intoxicating.  I only did not return on Sunday because of heavy, heavy rain.  A dream deferred until next year.  I photographed as much as I could of the event and wandered around in a kind of bliss seeing the density of art on the upper and lower levels that surely must have covered two city blocks. 

Thousands were there.  It was a feast of beauty and again, it had a certain intoxicating effect on me.  Photographing freely was a wonderful perk of being there.  In some venues, photography is strictly prohibited but not so at the Armory.  In contrast to a certain stiffness and even weariness that I sensed coming from the crowd at the PULSE event, I was right at home at the Armory Show and it seemed that everyone else was too.  It was wonderful and exhilarating without being stressful.  Women carried babies, kids ran around excited and everyone obviously enjoyed being a part of this event.

The worse thing at the Armory Show?  The long walk over to their location from the subway station but there was nothing bad at the venue.

The best thing about the Armory Show?  The ambiance, volume and diversity of magnificent art, sculpture and photography. 

On Sunday, the last event I attended, The Moving Image was for me a photo opportunity and, I approached it after fighting wind and rain with an open mind.  The venue was on its last day however although it was not crowded there were numerous people there involved in listening with headphones to various video projects that were installed at the dimly lit site. 

I photographed The Moving Image from one end to the other.  Attendees were kind and consented to my flashings and, I was honored to meet the Chief Executor and Director of the event, Edward Winkleman, just in time for several photographs of him to also be taken.  The Moving Image had a wonderful quiet, meditative ambiance that I liked and the people strolling, sitting and or otherwise involved and engaged in listening to audio and watching the various arts videos in this peaceful, dark and spacious environment left me with a relaxed feeling. 

Because the venue was dark yet with various lighted spots, I was happy with my photographic results.  It was a pleasure speaking with Edward Winkleman so, for this visitor, I enjoyed my swirl though at Moving Images albeit a brief one.

The worst part at Moving Image?  The long walk from the subway to their site near the waterfront.

The best thing part at Moving Image?  I liked the ambiance and darkened mood inside and lighting opportunities there, a nice photo opportunity capturing images of others watching video had a certain peaceful and tolerant echo that I enjoyed.

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