In: Art Fair

Since its inception in 2009, SPRING/BREAK Art Show has been gaining a steady stream of followers eager to get a look at emerging artists in the New York art scene before their big break – as well as collectors who want to purchase artwork without breaking the bank. Located for the second year at the Skylight at Moynihan Station, the somewhat dilapidated space above the massive post office provides ample potential for unique installations with its wood-paneled former mailing rooms and seemingly randomly placed sinks and bathroom stalls. Considering the pomp-and-circumstance often associated with Armory Arts Week, the art-school qualities of the curator-driven fair can, at times, feel campy or kitsch. However, for those looking to actually understand what they are seeing, the DIY-attitude of the venue lends itself perfectly to discussion, typically with the artists or curators themselves

Jimmy's Thrift: Artist Azikiwe Mohammed acts as Jimmy, the shop-owner of "Jimmy's Thrift" located in New Davonhaime. Photograph by Daniela Mayer

Jimmy’s Thrift: Artist Azikiwe Mohammed acts as Jimmy, the shop-owner of “Jimmy’s Thrift” located in New Davonhaime. Photograph by Daniela Mayer

Azikiwe Mohammed, “A New Davonhaime Thrift Store,” curated by Dustin Yellin

Step into Jimmy’s Thrift, a cozy wood-paneled shop of discarded ephemera in the fictional city of New Davonhaime, which gets its name from the amalgamation of the five most densely populated black cities in the United States (New Orleans, LA, Detroit, MI, Jackson, MS, Birmingham, AL, and Savannah, GA). Playing on the idea of people moving to find a better way of life, artist Azikiwe Mohammed has created a haven for black people, free from the issues surrounding the cities of its real-life inspirations. When I questioned Mohammed about his own inspiration for the project, he answered, “The last few years have been hard for brown folk, so what if there was a place that wasn’t?”

Much like a real shop, Jimmy’s contents change daily as the artist receives or creates more items. The tone varies from playful to serious, with a highlight of the space being the record player of real people discussing the first time they realized they were black. Looking at the eclectic mix of items around the room, it is hard to believe that one person made all of its contents, but each object is integral to the installation. Mohammed commented, “One of the things that was really important to me was to be able to make something that, while I’m controlling all the stories, not everything looks like it’s made by the same person… if I can make stuff that is different enough, then the question isn’t who made it, it’s where did all this come from.

Untitled #3 from 15 Pairs of Mouths with MOHAUNTDH in the background, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos. Photo by Daniela Mayer

Untitled #3 from 15 Pairs of Mouths with MOHAUNTDH in the background, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos. Photo by Daniela Mayer

Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, “MHOAUNTDH,” curated by Amanda Uribe and Ché Morales

Taking the expression “talking with your hands” to a new level, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos combined the words “mouth” and “hand” to create MHOAUNTDH, an installation emphasizing technology’s impact on -and fusion with- communication. Playing off of Bruce Nauman’s “Fifteen Pairs of Hands,” the artist cast fifteen pairs of hands as if they were texting – a series she titled “15 Pairs of Mouths.” As noted by curator Ché Morales, “We don’t always talk on the phone anymore, we text, so the thumb has replaced our lips.” Other works include “In Conversation,” a series of booth-like structures that play with concepts of language barriers by the audible repetition of Google Translated definitions, seemingly questioning whether or not technology bridges or widens the gap between true understanding.

A close up of the clothing for sale at LV DIY. Photograph by Daniela Mayer.

A close up of the clothing for sale at LV DIY. Photograph by Daniela Mayer.

Alfred Steiner, “LV DIY,” special project by 101/EXHIBIT, curated by Kevin Van Gorp and Shen-Shen Wu

One floor down from Jimmy’s Thrift is a very different kind of store where cardboard boxes from McDonald’s line the walls, surrounding the used clothing scrawled with the universally recognizable LV monogram. This is copyright-lawyer-turned-artist Alfred Steiner’s LV DIY store that parodies the contents, prices, and physical boutique design for Louis Vuitton. According to curator Shen-Shen Wu, the items for sale are more worthy of their price tag than their real world counterparts. “It’s actually more unique than whatever Louis Vuitton is selling, so you can buy a mass-produced item that is branded in a luxury way or you can support an artist who is producing a conceptual art piece.”

What initially appears to be a blatant commentary on mass-production and consumerism is given another level with the book filled with lawsuits involving Louis Vuitton, who, although eager to collaborate with contemporary artists, are notoriously abusive about wielding their intellectual property rights to silence criticism and parody. Luckily, Steiner can provide legal counsel for his own exhibit.

SPRING/BREAK Art Show, March 2-7 2016, 421 Eighth Avenue, Skylight at Moynihan Station (Main Post Office Entrance)

On March 2nd, VIP guests and press filled Piers 92 and 94 to preview the 22nd edition of the Armory Show, with Benjamin Genocchio—the Armory’s new executive director—bringing together just over 200 galleries from 36 countries. It is the show’s largest international turn out yet, with galleries from Mexico City to Reykjavík. As the Armory Show has grown, it has introduced a special invitational section that focuses on encapsulating artistic practices from a certain region. For its 7th edition, the show presents “Focus: African Perspectives,” curated by Yvette Mutumba and Julia Grosse, the founders of Contemporary And, an online platform that focuses on global art from African perspectives.

While some of the galleries outside of the focus exhibition seemed to take the theme to heart, after investigating, it became apparent that most are simply just becoming more internationally aware and looking beyond their domestic landscapes. Many galleries’ rosters feature a wide range of very diverse artists, not just in terms of nationality but also diversity of medium and theme. With such an international range of artists and works, it seems our interest in the global has been reflected within the art market. However, unsurprisingly and understandably, most galleries have stuck to the usual show of their newest works by their most marketable artists, international or not. Dealers brought out classic blue chip artists, such as Dan Flavin and Ai Weiwei, and, as is expected, displaying works that preview what is to come for the next season and playing off the popular trends within the art world.

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the Artist: Ai Weiwei, "Shelter," 2014. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the Artist: Ai Weiwei, “Shelter,” 2014. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Despite the sometimes too obvious business side of the fair, it was a big year politically with lots of hot button issues, such as racial inequality, which are reflected in many of the contemporary works on display, indicating dealers’ have an understanding that social consciousness and political engagement within art is attractive to the Armory’s attendees. Overall, while the Armory Show is still a typical art fair at heart, it did allow visitors to view some serious artistic gems before they disappear behind private doors. Here are some highlights we think are worth checking out:

Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery and the Artist: Kehinde Wiley, "Bound," 2015. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery and the Artist: Kehinde Wiley, “Bound,” 2015. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Sean Kelly’s booth dominated the entrance of the show with a large, magnificent Kehinde Wiley bronze sculpture entitled Bound, 2016, its price listed at $375,000. Bound features three women bound together by their hair and was featured in Wiley’s Brooklyn Museum show in the spring of 2015. On either side of the sculpture are two new works by Jose Dávila that are in direct conversation with pop superstar Roy Lichtenstein’s two paintings, Drowning Girl, 1963 and Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…, 1964. While I was visiting the booth, associates were busy pulling smaller works by Dávila in the same style and similar subject matter. The booth boasted another work by Kehinde Wiley, an enormous, brand new portrait entitled Equestrian Portrait of Phillip III, which was already sold before the start of the fair.

Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2016 Pier 94, Booth 501. Jose Dávila, "Untitled )Oh, Jeff...I Love You, Too…But...) II," 2016 and "Untitled (Drowning Girl)," 2016; Kehinde Wiley, "Bound," 2016. Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2016
Pier 94, Booth 501. Jose Dávila, “Untitled )Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…) II,” 2016 and “Untitled (Drowning Girl),” 2016; Kehinde Wiley, “Bound,” 2016. Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

I spoke with Lauren Kelly, director of Sean Kelly, about how they chose what to bring to this year’s show. “We specifically tailor what we exhibit based on the market; for this Armory show we wanted to show all brand new works. People expect to see new works at the Armory, so it was more about what exciting new works our artists have versus what balance we want of international or domestic artists. However, we’re in a political year, and we’re thinking about that…we’re showing works that are socially relevant.” When I asked about the Dávila works flying out of the back room, Kelly commented, “we always do really well at the Armory, its a great sales fair for us.” The average price of the artworks? Kelly responded with a cool “Fifty to sixty thousand.”

Courtesy of Victoria Miro and The Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, "To Be Determined," 2016. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Victoria Miro and The Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “To Be Determined,” 2016. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Victoria Miro’s booth did not disappoint; a large Kara Walker greets passersby and works by Sarah Sze, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili and others fill up the space. A large diptych by Njideka Akunyili Crosby stood out from the rest. It is so new that one of the gallery’s representatives told me it has yet to be named, so it is simply being called To Be Determined, for now. A Nigerian artist based in Los Angeles, Crosby’s work represents a cultural hybrid between being Nigerian and American and the dichotomy that exists between the two. The work depicts a woman sitting at what we presume to be a kitchen table, her stiff yellow dress crinkled at the waist. She sits sideways, her elbow leaning across the top of the chair, her other arm settled on the table. Her eyes are cast downward, lost in a moment to herself. Across from her, a TV plays the image of a military leader. Adjacent to the television, on the wall, we see the bottom half of a framed wedding photo of a bi-racial couple. The background of the diptych is a collage of traditional Nigerian textiles and images from Nigerian news. I was entranced.

Paris’s Galerie Alberta Pane’s featured piece was definitely the most photographed of the fair. Romina de Novellis performed The Cage, or, La Gabbia, during the VIP and press preview that consisted of the artist locked nude in a cage with 500 white roses, which she methodically tied to the bars around her, slowly encapsulating herself within a floral box. She was constantly surrounded by spectators. Her serene, graceful and trance-like gestures and expression made me feel slightly uncomfortable. After a period of time, I was hyper-aware of my participation in the spectatorship and felt like I was entrapped in the viewpoint of the voyeur while she was entrapped in her vulnerability, slowly hiding herself from the audience’s gaze.

Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery and The Artist: Elias Sime, "Tigthrope, Trios," 2013. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery and The Artist: Elias Sime, “Tigthrope, Trios,” 2013. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

James Cohan Gallery’s feature piece is by Elias Sime, entitled Tigthrope, Trios, from 2013. I spoke to David Norr, senior director, about Elias Sime’s work. “Elias is an Ethiopian artist who works in Addis Ababa. He creates compositions out of recomposed electronic parts that are often sourced from the market place, it’s called the Mercato. Often in Africa electronic parts are dumped and they are stripped and they are separated and resold at the market place. Sometimes they are separated by color, sometimes they are separated by actual material. They’re sold in 55 gallon drums. He uses these materials to create almost topographic landscape pieces. He’s using what’s available. It’s not as if oil paint from Brooklyn is available to him, so he’s working with the language that he’s familiar with, and wants to work within that language. He’s interested in making something of Addis, so it’s both directions in terms of formalism and also speaking to his environment, his surroundings.” When asked about the general price range, Norr said that the works they brought the show cost anywhere from $3500 to $235,000, “we brought works for a diverse range of buyers, we were thinking about the real art market.”

Although London dealer Ben Brown came armed with his usual suspects that include Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Alexander Calder, he balanced the classic big names of modernism and post-modernism with some works by relevant contemporary artists like Awol Erizku. Also, Claude Lalanne’s Pomme d’Hiver was quite the crowd pleaser.

Jack Shainman Gallery brought a diverse range of works that are representative of their roster that wow’d critics and collectors alike. Works by Hank Willis Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, Titus Kaphar, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Barkley Hendricks are all must-sees. 

Hank Willis Thomas, Promise, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Hank Willis Thomas, "Promise," 2016

Hank Willis Thomas, Promise, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Hank Willis Thomas, “Promise,” 2016

I had the opportunity to speak with Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, director of Jack Shainman, about their works on display. “We brought a representation of our roster; we represent artists from across the world, including Africa, Europe and around the Americas. We have a really diverse range of artists.” When discussing Promise by Hank Willis Thomas, she stated that “his new works are focused on taking really well-know or historically important photographs and finding an isolated moment within the frame and turning it into 3D sculpture. A sub-sect of this larger series is working around sports imagery. He’s really interested in ideas revolving around identity, representations, activity and thinking about sports as a life metaphor.”

Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Titus Kaphar, Alternate Endings II, 2015

Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Titus Kaphar, Alternate Endings II, 2015

Moving towards the Titus Kaphar, Bellorado-Samuels told me that “he’s really interested in visiting the art historical canon, specifically European and American history painting, but taking figures that generally would’ve been pushed into the margins and making them the central figure and reinterpreting history that way.”

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016

Towards the back-end of the booth, I was drawn to a piece by Toyin Ojih Odutola, inquiring about the work, she told me the artist was born in Nigeria but has lived around the U.S. for quite some time. “She works in various mediums, including this graphite and ballpoint pen and pastel, really interested in thinking about portraiture but really in a material way and rethinking line and form and what the material means to the subject. Thinking about the skin as a terrain and remapping the body.” When asked about the experience so far, Bellorado-Samuels was enthusiastic. “It’s been a great fair, it’s super busy and it’s a great opportunity for people who know these artists or to introduce people to artists they haven’t seen before, and now get to see them here, so it’s been good!” When I asked about prices, she told me that they range between $17,000 to $1.3 million. The publicist quickly stepped closer, so I ended my questioning there.

Namsa Leuba at Echo Gallery, Lagos as part of Armory Focus

Namsa Leuba at Echo Gallery, Lagos as part of Armory Focus

Echo Gallery Lagos, a gallery invited to the Armory Show as a part of Armory Focus, featured photography by Namsa Leuba. I had a chance to speak with the artist herself about her work.

“For the past few years I’ve been working on the concept of African identity through Western eyes. A part of my work is very based in fine art and also fashion, finding inspiration through fashion. I work only with local people, and with a Nigerian fashion designer. For almost all my pictures I do my castings in the street. I wanted to get another perception of what will be the next generation in Lagos. In my other photographs I work with traditional clothes and thinking about cultural symbolism in West Africa, South Africa. I try to cover not only multiple generations but also traditional and contemporary, past present, modernity, tradition, I explore both sides. I try to explore Africa. I work with different tools from ritual ceremonies and where I’m from, in Guinea, this was very serious, the postures and tools used in my photos are considered sacred. I wanted to use human beings, because in ceremonies these tools, these statuettes used during rituals, they are only animated by your mind. I wanted to make visible the invisible, make them alive and seen in a different context. It was interesting, in South Africa they don’t use the statuette, so to bring a different culture there and do something different, it was very welcomed. When I exhibited these photographs with these sacred tools in my country, though, it was sacrilege. People were offended that I put these tools in my photographs and made the statuette alive, it became violent. The police had to get involved. People eventually settled down, but it was welcomed in South Africa because its a totally different culture, they didn’t see it as offensive.”

The Armory Show, March 3-6 2016, 12th Avenue at 55th Street, Piers 92 and 94

Last week was Art Week in Madrid. Although the main event this year was the celebration of the 35 anniversary of ARCO, Spain’s biggest and most famous contemporary art fair, there were so many interesting alternatives (ArtMadrid, JustMad, Room Art Fair, Drawing Room, We Are Fair! and Casa Leibniz) that it was tough to choose among them.

I usually find regular commercial fairs quite overwhelming, with their endless corridors and lack of space between stands. So, this year I decided to visit those that promised a different experience: Room Art Fair and Casa Leibniz.

Both of them took place inside splendid nineteenth-century buildings located opposite each other in the lively district of Chueca. I was able to visit them in the same day, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the works exhibited and the radically different concepts behind them.

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Room Art Fair put the emphasis on the active role given to the spectator. Each gallery or curatorial project occupied one of the 36 rooms of the Petit Palace Santa Bárbara Hotel, where visitors could find the works of emerging artists from all over Europe, as well as those of the three winners of the New Curators Project.

One of these was Texturas Sonoras (Sound Textures), curated by María Castellanos, which consisted on a site specific interactive installation by artist Alberto Valverde. Inside a dark room, a luminescent structure projected onto the ceiling and bed developed in response to the sounds produced by the visitors’ presence. I was mesmerised by the changing patterns that were created by a spectrum of frequencies that our brain ignores, and it was great to talk to both artist and curator about the different environments in which they had recorded ambient sounds resulting in incredibly colourful and intricate images.

Photography also had an important presence in many of the rooms. I was particularly drawn to a series titled I called her Lisa-Marie by young French photographer Clémentine Schneidermann, represented by Galerie Huit Arles. Schneidermann explores the legend of Elvis through images of his fans and doubles taken during an annual festival held in his honour in a small town in South Wales, which she combines with photographs of the King’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, blurring the lines between document and fiction in the viewer’s mind.

‘Robbie, Abergavanny, Wales’, 2015. 70 x 70cm. C-Type print. © Clémentine Schneidermann, Courtesy Galerie Huit.

Another project involving photography that I found particularly interesting was the one presented by Març Rabal and Kiko Navarro at Galería Artara. Both artists work around the theme of boxing through the lens of gender: Rabal uses collage to create subtle but powerful images in which she merges the bodies and attributes of ballet dancers and male boxers, while Navarro’s black and white photographs situate the viewer inside the world of female boxing, where the contrast between the masculine and the feminine is brought to the surface.

Març Rabal and Kiko Navarro, Galería Artara.

Perhaps one of the rooms in which the works exhibited were better integrated in the space was the one occupied by Mad is Mad, a local gallery located minutes away from the fair.

Assaf Iglesias, Frédérique Bangerter and Berta López, Mad is Mad.

Assaf Iglesias and Frédérique Bangerter’s fine drawings and Berta López’s carefully arranged objects and embroidered messages occupy every corner of the room as if they were meant to be there. The dark grey tiles in the bathroom seem particularly fitting for the subtle colours and enigmatic forms in Iglesias’ works.

Assaf Iglesias, Mad is Mad.

Although the constant flood of people entering and exiting the rooms was a bit stressful and made the experience feel a bit like speed dating, I was very impressed by the way artists transformed the space and made it their own.

Walking along the corridors and peeking through open doors accentuated the embarrassing yet exciting feeling of invading people’s privacy over and over. To me, the most interesting aspect about Room Art Fair was the intimate atmosphere created inside the small hotel rooms, which facilitated the interaction between the artists and the general public.

Visiting Casa Leibniz was a completely different experience. In its second edition, this small art fair coordinated by Sara G. Arjona brought together 13 galleries and 23 Spanish artists whose works were displayed in the high-ceilinged rooms of the Santa Bárbara palace.

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The main purpose was to “create an inhabitable space to enjoy, understand and talk about new art”. It felt more like an exhibition than a commercial art fair, which made it easier to connect to the space and the works selected. These were accompanied by a group of 8 panels with texts by contemporary Spanish writers and philosophers, including Félix de Azúa and Chantal Maillard, which were purposely difficult to skim through. Visitors could decide whether or not to stop for a few minutes to read them, but they were meant to be as important as the artworks.

From the moment I entered the building, its nineteenth-century architecture and cracking wooden floors made me slow down and forget about the noisy street outside. The experience resembled that of slowly turning the pages of a carefully illustrated book. The rooms were almost empty, giving visitors the chance to move around the artworks and observe them from different perspectives, while the open windows served as blank pages where one could pause and breathe before moving to the next object.

Julio Falagán, ‘Way of Escape’.

Some of the projects seemed to fit this unique environment particularly well. This was the case with Julio Falagán’s Way Of Escape, an installation composed of several pieces of old landscape paintings. Falagán uses the old to construct a hopeful view of the present, which is nevertheless fragmented and held together by visible threads. He is interested in the sky as the last remaining free space, owned by no one in a world full of borders and restrictions.

Rubén Martín de Lucas, ‘Minimal Republics’.

Falagán’s work was not the only one to deal with territorial frontiers. Rubén Martín de Lucas’s Minimal Republics, for instance, dealt with the artificial and ephemeral nature of our borders. The artist intervened in three different landscapes and drew three temporary spaces that he inhabited for 24 hours. These experiences were shown through a video installation whose strange power of attraction kept me glued to the screen for a good ten minutes.

Ignacio Canales Aracil, ‘Ver a través’.

Ignacio Canales Aracil’s Ver a través made visitors literally see the space around them through the fragility of time and nature. It is easy to get trapped in the delicate web of pressed flowers that he uses to create his sculptures, which he has exhibited in several countries including the UK and Australia.

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Gloria Martín, ‘Lo flamenco’.

In the same room I was drawn to Gloria Martín’s figurative paintings. They were part of her project Réplica, through which the artist establishes links between her hometown, Seville, and Brussels, where she has been working recently. Her images transport us to a different realm where artistic objects from different provenience and cultures can coexist, which was precisely the aim of Casa Leibniz: to create a different time.

The longer I stayed inside the Santa Bárbara palace, the more it felt like a refuge from the outside world. Those lucky enough not to be in a hurry could enjoy the incredible experience of letting go of time to give each work and piece of literature the attention it deserved.

Image courtesy of Roberto Chamorro for The Armory Show

On March 3rd, the annual Armory Show in New York will open to the public on Piers 92 & 94, bringing together works from 204 galleries from 36 countries, marking the fair’s largest international representation to date. The Armory Arts Week in New York is akin to New York Fashion Week. However, rather than getting a sneak peak at next season’s hottest trends, collectors and art world enthusiasts attend art fairs to get a sometimes overwhelming look into the future of art, with dealers and gallerists bringing out their latest and greatest works, ready to sell. The first week of March seems overwhelmingly chaotic for art lovers and professionals alike as 12 different art fairs descend upon New York, all occurring nearly simultaneously. Though some are more curatorial focused than others, art fairs have the same basic layout—galleries install works in small booths set up in large exhibition spaces, comparable to an old-world marketplace with purveyors pushing their goods on passerby’s. At least, with the high density of visitors and constant visual bombardment, that is how it feels.

Image courtesy of Roberto Chamorro for The Armory Show

Image courtesy of Roberto Chamorro for The Armory Show

Although the art fairs all boast a certain unique quality or aspect, at their essence, the shows are a convenient and efficient way to sell as much art as possible to as many people as possible. However, fairs present a front of being simply a means to promote art and culture. Though this point is hotly debated, art fairs are not deceiving their audience by claiming to be a means for the public to experience a vast, diverse amount of art with little effort. The greatest barrier in terms of accessibility is the sometimes hefty price for an entrance ticket. Beyond the ticket price, art fairs do stand as a way for the general public to get a glimpse of artworks they might never otherwise encounter. Also, on the business side of things, the fairs have become extremely important for gallerists and art world professionals to garner relationships and reach a market that previously would have been unavailable, or just simply outside of the reach of their network. “Fairs are a necessary evil,” says London-based art dealer Ben Brown. “I prefer the quieter contemplation of the gallery, but I sell more at fairs, and I make more contacts.”

Roberto Chamorro

Roberto Chamorro

There are 200 large contemporary art fairs a year within major art-hubs around the world. As the art world becomes ever more globalized, collectors and art lovers have begun to congregate at art fairs rather than spend time visiting singular galleries and dealers. Collectors and viewers alike can browse an international selection of work, and while the viewing conditions may not be ideal, the exposure is hard to beat.

Like a thunderhead looming over many cities, the upcoming fairs have thrown the art world into a frenzy of preparation, waiting for the floodgates to open and the storm to begin.

February 3, 2016

London Art Fair, 2016

A puzzle. That is how the London Art Fair looked from the first floor of the Business Design Centre in Islington. The 95 art galleries that have been present this year at the 28th edition of the London Art Fair were the extraordinary puzzle pieces that collaborated to create an image of the contemporary and modern art world as it is today.

Curated by Natasha Hoare, Associate Curator at Witte de With for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the event was an absolute trip from the perspective of a one-day visitor such as myself.

The Business Design Centre proved to be an excellent space to gather so many galleries from around the world. Their representatives showed enthusiasm and excitement in sharing the work of diverse artistic voices with the visiting public.

I was impressed with the strategies of display, the international context created by the presence of so many galleries from outside UK, and especially by the warmth with which the gallery representatives would welcome and discuss with you the exhibited works and artists.

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While touring the galleries, I remembered that Natasha Hoare wrote a book called “The New Curator” which basically consists of interviews with curators from around the world and this art fair definitely felt as though it has been a major international art project.

Through discussion with gallery representatives and some of the artists present at the fair, I could finally form an image of the major shift that has occurred in the art world. Art has become information, which is one of the greatest assets in the present time. Art can be accessible to anyone and this phenomenon gives the artists a larger platform and wider windows towards succeeding in the early stages of their work. If art is information, it travels faster and across longer distances.

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You could say that there is actually no distance nowadays; this was apparent in the works of many of the contemporary artists present at the art fair. The main focus is time and closeness. Artists now have access to multinational and multicultural spaces and their source of inspiration has no limit when creating their narratives. Time remains the only competitor against the artist. In the end the winner is actually the public, who are growing in numbers, well-educated, well-informed and can more quickly gain access to art.

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The new artist is focused on a cross-cultural dialogue with the public and also on extending the making of their work through a more interdisciplinary route. We now see painters, sculptors, and photographers working with writers, scientists, fashion designers, sound engineers, etc.

Galleries have quickly picked up this trend and are creating the perfect platforms for an artist of the new era, who is creating for a wider and much more knowledgeable public.

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We are most certainly witnessing a surge of multi-media art and I absolutely fell in love with the work of Korean multi-media artist Guem MinJeong. Just like the rest of her fellow contemporary artists, Guem MinJeong adds to her art many adjacent skills and here, that is the deal-breaker.

The passage between the old and the new is being forged in a dramatic manner and Guem’s work brings the past, the old, the essence, and the roots into a virtual, futuristic, scientific plan. We witness it, but more importantly, we experience it.

Guem has showcased a series of site-specific video and sculpture installation works – Breathing, Twisted and Melting, Object series – on the theme of “breathing space”. Her installations transform the space of a white wall or embraces impossible external spaces such as forests and ocean into an interior space. Exhibition space itself becomes the subject matter for the artist.

In works such as “Breathing Door” (2007), the artist depicts a large white closed door which inflates and deflates to the sound of slow breathing. Conceived during the artist’s residency in Tamsui, Taiwan in 2014, the rhythmic cycle of the video loop reflects on the pace of 21st century, modern life.

Guem explains that “by making the space that I experience move and breathe, I would rather express the self in it – that is, the essence and value of humans. I wanted to take a closer look at it as a symbol representing the essence of people by moving a physical space, not a narrative film as virtual reality.”

Guem MinJeong holds a DFA from Yonsei University and BFA, MFA from Hongik University, Seoul. Her works are held in private and public collections, including the Seoul Museum of Art and Kumho Museum of Art. She has received numerous awards from Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture and currently lives in Seoul.

Guem MinJeong was represented by Hanmi Gallery and Ms. Yookin Choi was gracious enough to take me through the art works that they exhibited at the fair and to offer me precious information about the artist mentioned above.

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Another artist who impressed me was Steve Goddard. This time, I had the pleasure of actually discussing with Steve how routine is just another madness for an artist. Mr. Goddard did agree that time is precious and that it can be overcome by hard work and dedication to inspiring ideas.

Steve told me that it takes him roughly 9 hours to finish a painting, once the idea has been imprinted in his imagination. He sometimes wakes from his sleep, makes a note of the idea that inspired him, and begins work as soon as he feels that he is ready to paint it.

Looking at his paintings and his sculptures, I felt as if I was an important piece in his art. He seems to attract you inside a tunnel of visions, turning you into his link to reality. Once you have observed the art work, you will become part of its story and it will offer you a place in the imaginary in exchange for your understanding in the reality.

Steve Goddard’s website is a contemporary story about nights of visions, colours in the dark, paintings of nothing that are traps for everything. Art.

Steve Goddard was present at the fair with Galerie Sardac. Mr. Rowan Shulver, Director of Galerie Sardac, was kind enough to answer to a few of my questions with regards to how they perceived the fair. He informed me that Sarah Monk (fair director) and Craig Brown (sales manager) “were a pleasure to work with” and that there was an overall feeling of accomplishment on all sides at the end of the fair.

Unlike our previous articles about art fairs, this will not be able to provide you with any names or recommendations of galleries’ booths to visit. It is about the experience of an unusual art fair

#1 Ground floor

In a brownfield site of 3000m2 in the centre of Paris, the first edition of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is born. The art fair set out with an initiative to annually promote contemporary creation in empty buildings of the French capital, in partnership with a real estate group which provides the venue. This unique event features works created by more than fifty artists especially for this purpose including large-format photography, sculptures, video installations and urban art.

#5 performance_

Committed to redefining obsolete codes of traditional art fairs, EXPERIENCES Art Fair offers an innovative and immersive panorama to reconnect the public with the artworks. At the same time, it aims to change the [normal] economic model of an art fair since all works are available for rental as well as for sale, and the organiser is directly funding art projects without galleries as the intermediary. In addition to selected French and international artists, this first edition of the art fair has also invited young Israeli contemporary artists while it presents simultaneously ten French artists in a hotel venue in Tel Aviv, Israel.

#2 Paintings, Alena Gaponova

The venue and ways of display have lived up to the expectation of being unusual as the name of the fair may have denoted. The exhibiting venue is three storeys and can be described as shabby (but in a cool way, with hipster aura) compared to the usual setting of major art fairs (which can be bright and grand but perhaps more intimidating). The first floor is a large, dimly lit, long space, scattered with installations throughout. I was mainly fascinated by Alena Gaponova’s paintings in a room at the very end because they give different visual representations when colours of the lights in the dark room change –at one point you see a woman’s face painted on the canvas but the next moment it changes and you see a man’s face only.

Street art installation (partial) by Jisbar

On the brighter second floor, which is mainly dedicated to photography works by various artists, Maximilien Franco’s “InsideHEADphones” project stands out. It invites visitors to put on the headphones fixated in front of each photograph that depicts an anonymous passer-by in the street listening to music with his/her headphones. By listening to the same music to which the portrayed strangers were listening when the photos were taken, we can suddenly intrude into each of their personal worlds, as if a strange intimate link between the viewer and the subject is created through the music or songs.

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At one moment during the vernissage, while fair-goers were chatting with friends and enjoying their glasses of wine in front of photography works, the light was suddenly dimmed and a team of performers came down the stairs, with the majority of around ten women wearing only underwear but each of them tied to an ironing board. They lined up in the middle of the exhibition space and started to perform [the act of] struggling to free themselves from their ironing boards while all visitors gathered around and paid full attention with the aid of mobile phones or cameras… This live performance, as I perceived, was probably about the emancipation of women from their family roles and social stereotypes. Besides the live performance art, observing other people’s reactions could be seen as part of the interesting “experiences”.

Installation by Victor Cord'homme

The top floor is for larger sculptural and installation works, but unfortunately, I have to say that the display on this floor did not seem as carefully curated and exposes incoherence. This can be a slight weakness when such an art fair is without any booths and artists just bring their own works to be exhibited next to one another in the same space, unlike any curated exhibition. On the other hand, several rooms at the back provide wonderful spaces of creativity, where one artist occupies and designs the setting and display of each whole room.

Installation (partial) by Vinie Graffiti

On the whole, the concept of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is innovative and has provided an alternative experimental platform to traditional art fairs. It has also demonstrated the creative energy in Paris, still being a breeding ground for young talents and an indispensable contemporary art scene. So come to experience this unique art fair from 28 November to 6 December 2015, it’s free entry anyway – also unusual for an art fair!

Less than a week after Frieze Art Fair in London, gallerists, collectors and art-lovers in the art world take only a short breath and then gather around another important international contemporary art fair, FIAC, in Paris. Under the natural light coming through the exquisite glass roof of Grand Palais, the 42nd edition of FIAC has gathered 175 exhibitors from 23 countries. Here is a quick guide for some galleries to watch out for!

1. Neugerriemschneider (0.A30)

Directly facing the main entrance, this gallery from Berlin has proudly put up a large piece to match its honourable location. Overdose by Michel Majerus consists of 15 panels and forms a painting as well as an installation. Woody, the easily recognisable cowboy character from <<Toy Story>>, together with other colourful ads and brands, immediately gives visitors a familiar feeling as they set foot in the fair.

2. Galerie Chantal Crousel (0.A32)

The gallery is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and is showcasing artists including Danh Vō, Haegue Yang and Heimo Zobernig. The spotlight is on Melik Ohanian, the winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize this year with his Portrait of Duration. Every year the Marcel Duchamp Prize selects a French artist or an artist residing in France in the field of the plastic and visual arts. Don’t forget to check out this prize-winning artwork at the far end of the exhibition hall.

3. Andrea Rosen Gallery (0.A40)

The three sections inside the gallery booth presenting different artists sit well with one another. Among those artists presented, David Altmejd is undoubtedly my favourite and whose solo exhibition was in place in the modern art museum of Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) earlier this year. His gestural plaster works have always been his signature while the shattered mirror this time has caught much photographic attention.

4. Luciana Brito Galeria (0.A47)

I was intrigued by the installation work But a Melon for Ecstasy by Héctor Zamora, a Mexican artist who lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil. According to the gallerist, the watermelon on a bike refers to a Brazilian movie from the 1970s about a watermelon fetish. The watermelon denotes a secret sense of desire and loneliness.

5. Galerie Pietro Sparta (0.A50)

 Works by Jean-Luc Mouléne (front) and Mario Merz (back) at Pietro Sparta

The sculpture consisting of shells and plates by French artist, Jean-Luc Mouléne is wisely juxtaposed in front of the installation by Mario Merz. It creates a dialogue between the two artworks, both emphasising the material and metaphorical qualities of natural objects.

6. 303 Gallery (0.B22)

Moot Matter by Alicja Kwade at 303 Gallery

Several conversations engaging various artists are happening in this booth. A silvery installation by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster is placed below a painting by Karen Kilimnik in a smaller confinement while a glass sphere is superimposed in front of blue Breathing Watercolours (Wallpaper) by the same artist, Jeppe Hein. My favourite piece is Moot Matter by Alicja Kwade –sitting on the ground subtly collecting everything from its surrounding onto its reflective surface.

7. Kamel Mennour (0.B32)

The gallery has very diverse displays to offer, mixing rising and established artists, from sculpture by Alicja Kwade to Anish Kapoor, from Michel François to Daniel Buren. The most eye-catching was the sculpture by Huang Yong Ping which resembles a deer divided into two with a bow in the middle.

8. Karsten Greve(0.B34)

The gallery has put up several works by well-known French artist, Louise Bourgeois, alongside Claire Morgan, a London-based artist of contemporary sculpture and installation art. Artworks by both artists caught equal attention and are all amazing, especially the light and soft sculpture by Morgan using grains as shown in the picture.

9. Lisson Gallery (0.B40)

There is an installation work of fluorescent light called Paris Sky by Spencer Finch, probably especially chosen to match FIAC’s setting in Paris. Anish Kapoor‘s In-between, a sculptural installation with sexual undertone, retreated at a corner of the booth but still caught a great deal of attention, even with a security guard solely dedicated to it.

10. Galerie Nagel Draxler (0.B53)

The French-Algerian artist, Kader Attia‘s sculpture, Culture, Another Nature Repaired is reflected in another piece, Repaired Broken Mirror #11 by the same artist. “In the mended mirrors, the visitor will see his own face as if scarred by the metal wire,” the artist once said. With the wooden sculpture, Attia has transformed faces of mutilated war victims into a new depiction of human existence under interacting influences of African-Arabian and Western cultures.

11. Hauser & Wirth (0.C33)

The stand paid tribute to the attacks to the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo which happened earlier this year in the city. There are works with themes on freedom of speech and expression, such as Tienanmen (Students) by Fabio Mauri, being displayed around a stack of Charlie Hebdo issues.

12. Galeria Plan B (1.J28)

Let’s then turn to a booth on the first floor with a more playful selection. There is a work by Navid Nuur that requires you to take a flash photo so as to truly see it. On the other side of the booth, clementine skins are displayed as Pattern for a Sphere, accompanied by a kind of recipe that teaches you to make similar artworks, possibly with oranges, mandarins or grapefruits as suggested by the artist, Miklos Onucsan.

If you are in Paris for FIAC, don’t forget to check out the programme “Hors Les Murs” by FIAC — exhibiting outdoor installations scattered at various spots along the Seine, with the beauty of the City of Light as backdrops.

Last week it was London’s annual Frieze week. This meant a week of hectic art fever in the capital. Not only did two gigantic white tents – as well as a sculpture garden – take over Regent’s park, but all over London galleries and museums organised events to coincide with Europe’s most exciting commercial art fair and ride the wave of all-round Frieze-mania. Besides openings, artist performances, talks, huge auction sales and ‘art marathons’ (see the Serpentine’s ‘Transformation Marathon’ that occurred past Saturday), there was also the occasional alternative art fair. One such fair is SUNDAY.

Set up as a low-key, low-budget satellite site to Frieze in Regent’s park – a 10 min walk away – SUNDAY has a reputation as the cooler addition to the frenzied art fair week. Staged in Ambika P3’s subterranean space on Marylebone Road, the fair attracts its visitors and evokes their intrigue with a few hundred playful, funky, experimental artworks in a wide range of media as presented by a set of relatively unknown, young, up-and-coming galleries from Europe and North America.

SUNDAY is difficult to compare directly with the big money, big business violence of Frieze, happening just down the road. Upon arrival you were led – instead of past glamorous VIP booths and expensive-ticket queues toward security-manned gates – through a windy outdoor corridor of what felt like an industrial carpark, with unassuming white A4’s pointing the way towards free entry to the fair. The obscurity of this slightly mystifying walk was resolved as the fair’s entrance opened up onto an indoor balcony from which visitors had a direct overview of most of its interior, a set of metalwork stairs leading down into the large, open-plan main room.

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Its relaxing realising you can enjoy and explore SUNDAY at ease, since its size is nowhere near as daunting and stress-inducing as that of big daddy Frieze. This means you can take snaps of all the art you love before your phone’s battery juice inevitably seeps away (a common frustration among large-art-fair-goers). Different to Frieze’s regimented segmentation of galleries in Ikea-like booths, SUNDAY’s use of space is also much more relaxed, the displays of different galleries bleeding into one large floor and wall expo. You could wander freely through the space, stumble upon, step over or move underneath the works of art with a beer in hand, giving SUNDAY as a whole a much more chilled, down-to-earth, if not slightly chaotic, vibe. Another difference of course is that the art featured, on average, is of a totally different financial status than that shown at Frieze. SUNDAY is in fact so accessible that there might even be some prints or drawings you’d consider buying, with some works going for prices below 100 pounds.
 

SUNDAY Art Fair in London

What is not that different to Frieze, is the sense of excitement and wonder you feel discovering new and intriguing artwork. The buzzing energy of SUNDAY in many ways matches the Frieze vibe, regardless of the fact that the art on display is visibly less polished, less luxuriously presented and, of course, less valuable. Visitors of its opening night still included important art world professionals – among whom Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, who obviously realise that an absence of swanky presentation or big-name-fame hardly implies inferior quality. After all, any artist exhibiting at Frieze must once have started out at the sort of gallery SUNDAY shows and allows a piece of the Frieze-week action. And in a city as expensive as London, I’d say SUNDAY is in fact invaluable; it presents an exciting alternative addition to the capital’s most high-profile art week.

Every October, the Frieze Art Fair attracts crowds of collectors and art-lovers from abroad and paint exciting events and exhibitions on canvas of art scene in London. It is certainly an exciting experience to go visit Frieze London, one of the most important contemporary art fairs nowadays. The 13th edition of this international art fair features 164 galleries from 27 countries. This personal selection attempts to provide you with a glimpse of the fair and help you feel the vibe surrounding Frieze.

  1. Galerie Eigen + Art (A12)

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The installation made of cardboard, acrylic paint and wood by Birgit Brenner looks subtle but intriguing. The artist takes ideas from the banalities of daily life which is then expressed by using collage of raw materials such as brown cardboard, tape, staples and markers. They resemble pieces and parts of information that randomly coincide, overlap or complement each other in our current human existence dominated by means of modern technology and information. The gallery also exhibits works by conceptual artist, Olaf Nicolai who explores the relationship of idea to image or idea to object.

  1. Galerie Perrotin (A16)

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This well-established French gallery is gathering fascinating works by various artists, including poetic minimalist series of Meditation by Korean artist, Chang-Sup Chung and Studies into the Past by French artist, Laurent Grasso, who recreates human and natural phenomena set in surreal time and space. The most eye-catching piece is Cierra, the superrealist sculpture of a nude woman posed like a muse for classical painting, by John de Andrea. You do feel you are staring at a nude lady so close and right in front of you. I like Ivan Argote’s see?, it’s true which examines propaganda in the history of several countries.

 

  1. Pace (B6)

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The gallery has put up a new installation by Adam Pendleton alongside works by a group of artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, Lee Ufan and Wang Guangle. Pendleton’s work is now in place in the Belgian pavilion of Venice Biennale. I was mainly attracted by the rarely seen Salvage works of Robert Rauschenberg, which will offer an historical precedent for Pendleton’s silkscreen work according to the gallery.

 

  1. Gagosian Gallery (C3)

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There is solo show of the artist Glenn Brown, whose drawings are the focus this time. Through lines, shadings and strokes, Brown revisits the tradition of copying the historical subjects as a learning process while the effects of gesture are emphasised. The artist is known for the use of appropriation that he would work on other artists’ works by changing colours, forms, or texture in the case of sculptures.

 

  1. White Cube (D4)

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Here you can see works by big names, such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Mona Hatoum. The gallery was a pioneer in exhibiting works by Young British Artists (YBAs). I was quite attracted by the mirrored sculpture Puzzle by Liu Wei, a Chinese artist who often uses unexpected materials in surprising configurations. Its mirrored surface interacts with fair-goers and other artworks displayed at the booth.

  1. Galerie Buchholz (D8)

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The inflatable Felix cat by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey at the Galerie Buchholz booth is the largest artwork exhibited inside the white tent, and is reported to be sold early on the first day of the fair. On the other hand, I was rather intrigued by Wolfgang Tillmans’s realist and intimate photograph of Arms and Legs (2014).

 

  1. Stuart Shave/ Modern Art (E1)

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The London-based gallery was awarded the Stand Prize at Frieze London 2015 for its two-artist presentation, praised by the jury on the ‘impact’ of the stand which instigate ‘intellectual and formal dialogue between the two artists.’ The sculptural installation by Yngve Holen made with washing machines, model airplanes and plexiglass was playful and attention-seeking. When it is surrounded by pixelated Rothko paintings by Mark Flood, the visual effects are elevated and make the stand difficult to be avoided by almost every fair-goer.

 

  1. The Modern Institute (E5)

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The 23 Granny Smith apples hung with transparent strings lining in a v-shaped form immediately drew me into the booth of The Modern Institute from Glasglow. With this artwork, Urs Fischer makes use of found objects –real apples, and the v-shaped line looks like the trajectory of an apple falling and bouncing back on the ground. It is in dialogue with the installation at the back of the booth by Martin Boyce who likes to explore modernist design and how time affects our understanding of design objects.

  1. Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (E9)

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This is a visually fascinating booth guaranteed by works of Olafur Eliasson including Panetary Lovers (2015) and Polychromatic attention (2015). The 24 partially chromed crystal spheres have attracted many smartphones and cameras for photo-taking. Draped Marble (2015) by Analia Saban, which examines the inherent quality of the material, was minimalist, finely made and neatly presented.

 

  1. P.P.O.W. (G2)

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Always adoring blue and white china, I was truly enchanted by Ann Agee’s porcelain and stoneware installation, Lake Michigan Bathroom (2014), a re-creation of her original work from 1992. Agee often uplifts utilitarian objects to the level of artwork while seeking to replicate and mimic pre-existing forms. With this piece, she replicated industrial china by hand as porcelain and stoneware, in a way to examine reproduced objects’ position in culture.

Last advice for the fair includes: i) going to the sculpture park before entering the white tent of the fair because it gets too dark for appreciating sculptures outdoor after 6pm if you only go after all the booths; ii) do not miss out some “Live” sessions or “Projects” scattered around the venue, such as Misako & Rosen’s Portrait Session (2015) by Ken Kagami, fun guaranteed.

If you have also been to the Frieze Art Fair already, what are YOUR picks? Leave a comment to exchange ideas!