Evidence that the election results have had any impact on the art fairs were scant at best yesterday. Artist Jason Lazarus told me he kept hearing that this was the year artists would skip, but as I walked around UNTITLED., I didn’t notice any fewer artists then usual. I witnessed plenty of sales, though, and the dealers mostly seemed pleased. Collectors are aware of their upcoming tax windfall.
The only visible sign of negative election effects I noticed was a quiet anxiety amongst the non-collector class. One American artist currently living in China told me he arrived nervously looking to see if he could spot Donald Trump supporters — he spoke about them if they were a curiously new and potentially dangerous species. Robert Dimin, a partner at Denny Gallery lamented the short term thinking of collectors who voted for bank deregulation over the safety of the planet. “Best case scenario, the country’s economy is destroyed” I told him. “Worst case we’re all dead,” he replied laughing. Neither one of us thought this was a funny joke, but that didn’t stop me from laughing so hard I nearly cried.
Meanwhile, a steady stream of men in suits and women wearing patterned capes flowed in and out of the UNTITLED. “It was really busy between 4-6” Lindsay Stapleton of GRIN told me. “then they all left for a mystery event.” “Dinner,” I told her.
All and all the show looked good, thanks in no small part to their trademark tent, which is brightly lit and notable for its wide aisles spacious booths. Notably, though, it lacked in political art. Given that this is the only show that boasts a curator it’s hard not to be a little disappointed with this outcome. I get that this is a shopping mall for collectors who mostly voted for Republican President-Elect Donald Trump, but if artists overwhelmingly didn’t support him, perhaps there should be more than a t-shirt making stand with Rirkrit Taravanjia in the programming. (To be fair, there are political statements on some of those t-shirts, but it’s not enough.) Artistic Director Omar López-Chahoud with curators Christophe Boutin and Melanie Scarciglia could do better.
In the end, it was up to the galleries that carried politically motivated artists to present work of that nature, and most of them didn’t. Postmasters stepped up to the plate with works by Molly Crabapple and William Powhida (amongst others) and that was about it. A Molly Crabapple drawing of Trump’s coronation made up for a lot of what this fair was missing, though. In the piece, a tiny naked Trump figure in yellow stands in front of a larger than life screen picturing an angry Trump about to put on a crown made of the American flag. Red splotches of paint read like blood splatters. The drawing works for its simplicity. There’s no mistaking that media amplification is a real and dangerous thing. And there is no mistaking that in reality, Donald Trump is just a pathetic little man.