Radcliffe Bailey, Altered Destiny, 2006
Maybe because I had just come from the Scope art carnival last year I had a greater appreciation for the quiet fair that Pulse put together than I normally would. Certainly I felt this same sense of relief yesterday when I visited the fair having just seen Scope. Though visibly improved, Scope still suffers from looking makeshift. That said, I'd probably go with Scope this year as the better of the two fairs, since Pulse really doesn't give you much to look at. Everything looks nice enough, but it's a sure sign that banal is the dominant aesthetic when you've done a tour around the fair, and are wondering why you're there. Don't get me wrong, there were only a few galleries that had really bad booths (as there are in any fair), but there wasn't one example of an exhibitor that was anything more than average either. Probably the biggest disappointment of the fair came from Finesilver, a gallery from Texas that went from putting together one of the best booths I had seen in New York last year, to separating their exhibition space into the bad painting side and better than bad art space. UPDATE: For those readers who are interested in gallery performance at this fair, rumor has it Finesilver sold their booth out in the first day!
The better side of Finesilver. (It’s still not great.) Photo: AFC
Things may be worth seeing at this fair include the dubiously titled “special installations”, which consists of the display of traditional media works. Two excellent mid-sized Kentridge drawings courtesy of Marian Goodman hang on a wall, which I suppose means that as long as there is more than one work up Pulse will label it an installation*. You might also want to check out a few things in Jack Shainman Gallery. The gallery has brought down a Nick Cave soundsuit, which miraculously remained unsold after the artist's show closed this November. There is also a beautiful model boat in black textured fabric by Radcliffe Bailey titled Altered Destiny.
I doubt however, that these works are driving people to their fair, as it is most likely the spillage from some of the more major fairs that drives traffic. Gallerist Steven Stewart of Freight + Volume described thick crowds and frenzied activity for most of the morning at Pulse, which is the sort of thing that makes everyone but those who have to suffer through the crowd happy. Freight + Volume has one of the better collections of work at that fair, so I'm sure that helped their business, but given the dullness of the fair I can't imagine Pulse is going to have a lot of repeat visitors. Who knows though, it’s quite possible there are more than enough boring collectors for each boring fair.