Sunday, July 15, 2018

Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Center: Aug 3 - 5


In advance of the Seattle Art Fair's inaugural success, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers and an emphasis on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and ArtNews "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry.

All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture. As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" on the occasion of the fair's second year.

Art Fair's fourth installment the first weekend in August will feature an expanded body of galleries, more than 100 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events around the city. These under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation. This year's Projects offering a platform for presentations beyond the art fair booth under the premise of "exploring identity, modes of play, and technology" in and around adjacent neighborhoods of the city. The series includes the presentation of a functioning satellite by Trevor Paglen, Anishinaabe artists Charlene Vickers and Maria Hupfield in a megaphone broadcasting performance, and Mark Pauline the founder of Survival Research Laboratories, joining influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, notably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?". Decades later, much of the contemporary SRL press focusing on the changed cultural and political landscape, and the difficulty of staging Pauline's elaborate, destructive spectacles. Indicative of The Verge's "Terrorism as Art: Mark Pauline's Dangerous Machines". Gone is the era in which the Bay Area was a countercultural hub, and institutions like SRL and RE/Search could easily secure inner city public space for performance. As a product, there's a logic at work that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of it's presentation. As Wired said, "artistic respectability doesn’t so much beckon as envelop", in response to The New York Times' "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery".

Previous artistic director, Laura Fried, has been succeeded by Nato Thompson, supported by the core dealer committee of local gallerists, James Harris and Greg Kucera. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, that the fair “is a wild ecosystem of different approaches. We’ve got technology, we’ve got dystopia, there’s utopia, we have gender, we have indigenous culture, we have a certain kind of interest in historical conditions. There’s a lot of different through-lines of the project, and we’re very excited about it.” This year's national and international big gallery players are represented by New York's Lidia Andich of Gagosian Gallery, Robert Goff of David Zwirner, Galerie Lelong & Co and Adams and Ollman. Previously offering a regional mirror to the global expansiveness of Art Fair, Scott Lawrimore of Lawrimore Project, Bridge Productions, and Vital 5's highly qualitative Out of Sight exhibition will not be returning in 2018. Since 2015, this 22,000 square-foot survey of contemporary art read like a who's-who of the best work seen originating from the Pacific Northwest. Credited as the "The Real Seattle Art Fair is Out of Sight" in local press, this representation of work, "Out of Sight, Into Mind: Art on the Margins of the Seattle Art Fair", will sorely be missed.