Art fairs can seem depressingly uniform, all of them decked out with bright lights, oppressive cubicles, and constant noise of the art-world rabble. So after a week of peeking over heads to view art, visiting Moving Image can seem downright eerie. Early Thursday evening at the Moving Image fair there were no dealers to be seen, just monitors floating at eye-level surrounded by a low-level video hum. No other New York art fair looks or feels like this.
I’ve begun to enjoy this annual ritual of walking down this dim tunnel without the crowds, and taking the time to watch video without distraction. Instead of booths, you’ll see monitors, projection screens, or installations with two additions: a cardboard box, usually covered with business cards, and a placard listing additional information about the work, including the dealer’s cell phone and email information. Visitors can also contact dealers through Artsy.
In its four years of existence, the fair has always had a hands-off policy, letting dealers come and go as they please. I overheard one red-scarfed visitor raving about this process: “You don’t need a huge staff—and that’s it!” Though it’s hard to imagine exactly how profitable this model is, more than ever, dealers and visitors need at least one less-than insane fair: We live in a prickly era where fair exhaustion is real.
“You can make it a more human experience,” Ed Winkleman told me last night, as dealers started to make their way in for the fair’s opening reception. One of those dealers, Catlin Moore, Director of Mark Moore Gallery out of Culver City, California was more than happy to have been out and about all day. “I like the freedom,” she said. “I can do studio visits.” Earlier in the day she’d been out at VOLTA seeing her colleagues, and purchasing work. This is the gallery’s second time at Moving Image New York, and they have participated at Moving Image London as well.
“Galleries don’t tend to do business here,” mentioned fair co-founder Murat Orozobekov, who along with Ed Winkleman, started Moving Image back in 2011. Those dealers, he added, were spending time in the city, talking to collectors, and sometimes bringing them back to the fair.
For smaller galleries who have yet to build up an extensive Rolodex, Moving Image does try to help out. Orozobekov pointed out Brooklyn’s Microscope Gallery as one example. Several editions of Zach Nader’s video had sold after Orozobekov had personally emailed two collectors. One purchase came in through foot traffic.
Otherwise, though, no one else we spoke with had noted sales at the fair. PPOW (showing at ADAA and the Armory) mentioned they hadn’t sold because it was the first day of the fair; that’s not what you’d hear at one of the larger fairs where collectors scramble for first dibs on works at VIP openings. PPOW has, however, proven successful selling work at Moving Image in years past.
“The demographic that attends that fair wants to see video,” said Director Anneliis Beadnell. “They are completely aware that is what they are walking into so they are more patient viewing films and actually take the time to view the works entirely.” These buyers are often the serious video- and film-geeks, who know the work requires a more serene setting than is available at many of the other fairs.
And the value of specialization within the fair environment cannot be overstated. With the success of the Chinese Focus at the Armory, which attracted a significant number of niche collectors alongside the rabble, it seems many fairs are succeeding by targeting specific collecting groups. It stands to reason, then, that Moving Image’s format could be replicated within a larger fair; though that might risk sacrificing the fair’s “more human experience.”