What kind of dealer is the Pulse Art Fair trying to attract? It’s unclear, and that in combination with years of accepting whoever had the booth fee, has had an impact. Without a recognizable identity, the fair will continue to struggle to hold onto its stronger exhibitors and attract new ones.
That much is on view right now, as Pulse might be most notable for its regrettable art: greeting card-esque floral photographs, a cheeseball sculpture of motorcycles cuddling, and a red enamel figure sitting on top of shiny mountain of metal. Given this showing, it’s no surprise most dealers we spoke to seemed anxious. Even the spin seemed more transparent than usual “I think the fair’s even better than last year,” one dealer told me, but then failed to name a single booth I should visit.
On that front, I can do better. As with every fair, there are few highlights. Those after the jump.
A cab driver told me there are fewer people in Miami beach this year due to Zika fears. An artist told me there were fewer artists in Miami due to Donald Trump’s election. Everyone tells me they have fair fatigue. But dealers, willing to refute any and all evidence to the contrary, say their fairs have been busy.
Whether or not anyone is suffering as a result, one thing is certain: attendance is way off from last year. There are fewer people in the streets and at the fairs across the board. Certainly this was the case at NADA yesterday, which was uncharacteristically quiet. Not that this seemed to bother the dealers. Most were relaxed and seemed content, having made their sales the day before. This stood in stark contrast to Pulse, where even the slightest expression of interest, inspired long sales pitches and desperate looks. I felt bad for them.
A slower pace and fewer jovial parties from most of the fairs came as a welcome relief, even if they were a result of election malaise. There are a few more grey hairs amongst all of us—including this reporter—and the giant, all day, courtyard parties at NADA have been replaced by a swag table and cafe that now serves fancy donuts.
The spirit, though, remains the same. More than any other fair, NADA’s dealers are defined by an investment in art that’s so intense it seems to demand generosity. For example, when visiting the Invisible Exports booth, Benjamin Tischer made a point introducing me to Jerry the Marble Faun at Situations. “That’s a rabbit hole you have to go down!” he beamed as he told me about the ceramics made by the gardener for Mrs. Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale. The two were decedents of Jacqueline Kennedy and famous for shunning the world after high society wouldn’t accept their eccentricities.
Tischer enthusiasm wasn’t an isolated incident. MacGregor Harp at 247365 recommended I see Raul de Nieves at The Company, because his beaded figurative sculptures look infused with joy and dance. And Phil Grauer, a NADA board member and partner at CANADA, offered some context. The fair wants to be more inclusive. Last year’s venue experiment with Fountainbleau didn’t work out that well for that reason. The hotel wouldn’t make more space available to the fair at a reasonable cost, so they were forced to reduce the size. It created an atmosphere they didn’t like, so they returned to The Deauville this year with the objective of offering more space to more dealers.
The efforts paid off. The fair looks and feels better. Perhaps most importantly, though, the quality art to crap ratio is better than anywhere else, making NADA the model, and fair to beat.
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.
Most people we know are flying into Miami and staying for only a couple of days. In our opinion, this is the best way to see the fairs—quickly enough to minimize the pain. But those who stay for only two or three days won’t be able to see all the fairs, so the trip requires some advance research. Our guide will help with that. We’re not listing all the fairs—only the ones worth your time and money.
On the subject of money, to those readers who are coming specifically to purchase work, a special request: consider buying more of it this week from emerging and middle tier galleries. A lot of these galleries are launching fantastic shows but continue to struggle. If we don’t help them out, that end of the market is going to die. If you don’t want to limit your conversations to what Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are making, spend a little more on some new artists. You’ll be glad you did.
We’re not in London for the 14th Frieze art fair, which opens to the public tomorrow. But VIP preview guests have already thoroughly documented the fair via social media. Just what trends are catching the eyes of these discerning Instagrammers? Anything and everything pink, installations that harken back to the days before Brick Lane felt like a high-end high street, genitals (obviously), shelving (less obviously), and one very popular living blow-up-doll.
For one more weekend, the Governor’s Island Art Fair transforms the derelict mansions of Colonel’s Row into semi-un-tamed exhibition sites, alongside the Center for Holographic Arts. The fair’s a little uneven, but worth the trip for the sightseeing alone.
The story of art’s role in gentrifying urban neighborhoods is not new. But plant an art fair in the Bronx—one of the more recent instances of skyrocketing real-estate—and throw in the involvement of big-name sponsors and developers, and you have the makings of an event that won’t please everyone. That isn’t to say that locals were not involved with “No Commission NY: Art Performs,” a four-day art fair hosted at a former piano factory in the South Bronx; the art fair was aided by the vision of a culturally respected Bronx native, Swizz Beatz, a rapper, music producer, art collector, and recently appointed Chief Creative for Culture at Bacardi Limited.
Paddy: Raging contemporary art trends: pastels, particularly in pink, smiley faces, plants, tropical themes of any sort, the 80’s. Michael: I suppose I am always grasping for something to reassure me abstraction still has teeth and relevance beyond decor—even if that means a representational painting of tiny abstract paintings.
If you were a child or teenager in a computer-having household in the early/mid 1990’s, you might remember these infuriating maze games that are panic-inducing just to observe. And if you work in the arts in New York City this week, there’s a good chance you can relate to this GIF. Is this why I’ve been inexplicably anxious for days?