When the curator becomes the primary product, nobody wins. This is the main takeaway from the fifth iteration of the SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, where crowds wrapped around the block on Tuesday to enter the disused office spaces above Moynihan Station, the largest post office in New York. In this case, the curatorial takeover comes down to a numbers game; with over eight hundred artists and one hundred curators competing for attention spans in ninety individual spaces packed into the two floors of the fair, the foot traffic naturally gravitates toward the busiest hangings, and emphasizing the biggest names. In fact, the curators’ names are sometimes printed so large on the walls that the vie for attention normally given over to the exhibition and artist. The result is that the fair’s independent and project-based spirit loses out to a sprawling disorganized mass of curatorial impulses.
Under the theme of ⌘COPY⌘PASTE, which the fair’s organizers suggest entails anything that is reposted, copied, or rebroadcasted, the doors were opened to what would presumably be a flood of art engaging the digital condition of life we live today. To whit, a floor-to-ceiling digital wallpaper of New York landscapes, multiplied as if through a kaleidoscope, wraps the show’s entrance. Titled Precession by Anne Spalter, the installation rotely follows the fair’s theme by objectifying the digital through video screens and copied images printed on canvas. Thankfully many of the curators and artists did not bite on the fair’s theme. Though there are plenty of stereotypical post-internet works, enough projects at SPRING/BREAK seem to reject the more literal digital side of the theme to keep things interesting.
They’re also better capitalizing on the space this time around, compared to last year when they were moved to the post office at the last minute. This year, with plenty of advanced notice, the curators and organizers relish in installations that call attention to quirks like glass-doored offices, run-down closets, and imposing vaults in various states of finish.
Yet with so many booths in such tight quarters, the well-thought exhibitions are vulnerable to a hostile takeover by the curatorial network economy, which rewards calculated market-friendly aesthetics, self-promotion, and bold egos. Too many exhibition booths are incoherent. SPRING/BREAK desperately needs to cull its numbers before the fair becomes a glorified LinkedIn group.
Below are some of the highlights which rose above the crowds and curatorial mass filling Moynihan Station to the brim.