Sunday, July 7, 2024

Seattle Art Fair at Lumen Field Event Center: Jul 25 - 28

Following a two year pandemic hiatus, Seattle Art Fair returned with a new artistic director under the aegis of Art Market Productions who announced that they would continue as sole owner and producer. This was due to the passing of Paul Allen in 2018, wherein the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, were made uncertain. By 2020, it was established that Allen's Vulcan corporation would no longer be investing in their cultural branch, with the explicit message sent by the shuttering of their arts and entertainment division, and the layoff of all related staff. This would of course translate as "Vulcan Closes its Arts + Entertainment Division, which Includes Cinerama and Seattle Art Fair". Producing a cascade of concerns related to arts funding and the venues under Vulcan's purview. Most significantly, the question of the  Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films, project 70mm celluloid, and present digital ultra-high resolution films in Dolby Atmos Sound. The future of this almost singular venue was resolved last year with the announcement in the Seattle Times that, “SIFF Buys Cinerama, Plans Reopening", and through a deal with the Paul G. Allen estate the cinema reopened this past fall. In the case of Seattle Art Fair, it is now wholly owned and run by Art Market Productions, after the inaugural success of its four year run under Vulcan Arts + Entertainment. On the eve of the fair's 2015 launch, 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 with an emphasis on the 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. Continuing the trend of atypical and non-traditional gallery works, the fourth annual Seattle Art Fair presented 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?". The cultural and economic landscape that Pauline operates in now is quite different than that of the early 1980s, presenting a new set of challenges to his performative art. So there's logic at work in that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of its 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". The 2018 installment also saw artistic director, Laura Fried, succeeded by Nato Thompson. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, for the 2019 edition which featured works and talks by the Center for PostNatural History, largescale video artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, architecture and installation creators, Bigert & Bergström, and choreographer Morgan Thorson. For 2023, the year's big coup was the challenge as "Seattle Art Fair Pushes the Boundaries of Artistic Expression", by hosting artist provocateur, Dinos Chapman. Who as a member of the Young British Artists movement with his brother Jake Chapman, have been characterized as, "What if Satan and Hitler Opened a MacDonald's in Hell?". With Seattle Art Fair's eighth installment this year, artistic director Nato Thompson returns, programming a series of specific works by, Michael Leavitt, João Artur da Silva, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Julie Alpert, a mixed-media installation by Ruy Cézar Campos, Epiphany Couch, Maria Gaspar, Tori Karpenko, Sam Stubblefield, an open gallery event with Emily Counts, and installations by Michael Rakowitz and Ralph Ziman. With a voluminous body of galleries, more than 80 in total, along with on-and-off site discussions, projects and open studio events. New Artists/New Collectors also presents the work of 10 select artists, Corning Museum of Glass will host "New Glass Review 43", and Seattle Art Museum will be represented by a Pop-Up Gallery. There are also the annual panel discussions, this year including New Artists/New Collectors once again, and observations on Art Appropriation in Today’s Environment. There are also five major satellite events around the city on the weekend of Art Fair, and The Seattle Times have selected their "Top 10 Picks from Art’s Big Weekend" from one of the "Most Anticipated Seattle Exhibits of 2024".
Photo credit: The Rendon Gallery