The new “Downtown Art Fair”, a big Carrs Water Cracker of an art fair, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s thirty blocks uptown of Cutlog and NADA, and Frieze has more “downtown” exhibitors than this. The fair comes from the creators of Art Miami, and the selections fit a kind of Art Basel-native formula. Botero and Ed Ruscha are everywhere, and filling in the gaps, it looks like Modernism just marched on through the 2000s; Abstract Expressionism from Grace Hartigan, color field painting by Wolf Kahn, sexy pop art updates of Modernist paintings by Mel Ramos, new expressionist squeegee painting by Ricardo Mazal.
The sameness just reflects the fundamentals of the luxury art market. Naturally, this looks pretty white. I saw three black people here: one man was emptying a garbage can; one woman was carpet sweeping the entire floor; and another woman was working the bathroom. I don’t know what, if anything, could be done to change this. The disparity just becomes really clear when a black woman is literally ushering a bunch of white ladies to their toilets. The art is boring, and the optics are terrible.
And because the Downtown Fair is designed to reinforce time-honored tastes, this particular grouping of exhibitors has very little to offer culture at all. I thought about asking people what’s selling and then wondered– what’s the point? Collectors are here in droves, and this is the most collector-friendly art you could find. If it doesn’t sell here, it will somewhere else. That’s all fine, but this is work that (hopefully) doesn’t tell us anything about who we are, what we want, and where we’re headed.