From the makers of Milwaukee’s art fair in a bowling alley comes The Swiss Institute’s Dark fair, undoubtedly the hippest event of the weekend. Promising the display of art without the use of electricity, and scads of annoying hipsters, surprisingly, this fair didn’t make me want to pull all of my hair out. After all, it does look strikingly like a divey pizza joint/bar with a dance floor; places where artists are almost genetically predisposed to have fun. Rows of booths were lit by candles, flashlights, and glow in the dark toys, an ideal setting for paintings with giant penises attached to them.
Of course probably the best aspect of this fair lies in the fact that viewers are given the opportunity to think about art using different criteria than we normally would. Personally, I rather liked touring the fair, while thinking to myself “The ceramic pizza is a great touch — needs some beer,” or “this booth could use a few more black lights”, and earnestly thinking it would improve the space. “Cheater!” was perhaps the first word that came to mind when viewing Sue de Beer’s lamps at Marianne Boesky, one of a number of booths that used electricity despite the fairs stated objective to display art without it.
My favorite works at Dark Fair tended to be more performative in nature; Benjamin Cho’s fashion show by tea lights, Brian Belott and Larissa Velez’s wordless choir, the self portrait ghost painting, and the artist Spencer Sweeney in full ghoul garb at Gavin Brown Enterprises. Like the crowd the fair drew, these people focused more on having fun, than they worrying about selling objects — a refreshingly old school take on art.