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On Zona MACO: How to Excel at Being an Average Art Fair

by Michael Anthony Farley on February 11, 2016
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Last week, I visited Mexico City’s Zona MACO (México Arte Contemporaneo), Latin America’s largest art fair. This was on the heels of our visit to Material, a satellite fair that impressed Paddy and me beyond our expectations. Walking into MACO felt just like visiting the most art fair-y of art fairs by comparison—which is to say, the immediate experience was predictable. There were long convention center lines, groups of “fresas” queuing up to take selfies in reflective sculptures, and familiar overexposed blue-chip names such as Alex Katz and Richard Prince. (“Fresas” is Mexican slang for “yuppies”, literally translating to “strawberries”.) MACO devoted a good chunk of floor space to design wares—from furniture to high-end sunglasses. I wasn’t immediately inspired to lend the event much thought beyond snapping some photos. With a few days of reflection, I realize Zona MACO is noteworthy for its extremes. And that’s not just the quality or quantity of blatantly commercial crap. For all the lackluster blue chip staples on the floor, I also saw an impressive amount of well-curated project booths that smartly positioned emerging artists and galleries in dialogue with the establishment. These two poles served a useful purpose: they lay bare how contemporary art fairs function. Zona MACO is the best model I can think of to demonstrate how for-profit fairs must work to remain both commercially viable and discursively relevant. For better or for worse, MACO excels at both.

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This Week’s Must-See Art Events: The Creative Time Summit, Juliana Huxtable, and Cyborg Squirrels

by Paddy Johnson and Michael Anthony Farley on November 9, 2015
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This weekend, everyone will be (or should be) attending The Creative Time Summit in Bed-Stuy. Leading up to the all-day events this weekend, however, are a handful of promising openings. Monday, check out massive, rarely-seen works from abstract painter Friedal Dzubas in Midtown. Thursday, a Jeff Koons show at Gagosian attempts some metaphysical alchemy, and Friday morning, Juliana Huxtable’s new MoMA commission opens. Friday night we couldn’t be more excited for solo shows by Alex Ebstein and Meriem Bennani at Cuevas Tilleard Projects and SIGNAL, respectively.

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Can Democratic Art Fairs Succeed?

by Paddy Johnson on November 11, 2014
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It’s been a good week for art. Between the EAB Fair launch and The Independent Fair, there was more conversation to be had about the quality of art itself than the money people were paying for it. That had to do not just with the quality of work on view, but the community that created it.

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Art World Scoop from Industry Expert Geri Thomas

by Paddy Johnson on September 29, 2014
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I first heard of Thomas & Associates in 2001. I had just finished grad school and was looking for work. A professor who was friends with the company’s current president, Geri Thomas, told me I should check out the art recruiting and consulting firm. I sent out a resume to them and never heard back.
I now see that as a sign of a good recruiter. I had no experience or particular aptitude for commercial arts administration, and that would have been clear from even a quick look at my resume.

Founded in 1999—just two years prior to my own discovery of the firm—Thomas & Associates provides staffing, consulting and professional development seminars exclusively for arts and culture. The company has taken on top-tier clients like the Studio Museum, James Cohan Gallery, and Sean Kelly. Thomas herself has taught arts administration at NYU since 2002, and helped to create a certificate program at the university in Art Collections Management and Display. Prior to that time, Thomas owned a gallery, worked in PR for Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, and held the Director of Exhibitions and Collections position at the Jewish Museum.

13 years after my original application, I reached out to her again. I wanted to know what recruiting firms do, between fielding grad student resumes and helping museums put on major exhibitions. Now that I’m a blogger, I finally get to find out what happens behind the scenes at the offices of Thomas & Associates.

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