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The End of the Art Fair?

For a while now, VoCA hasn’t been trotting off to art fairs the way we used to. This year, the New York Amory almost went unnoticed to us. But then we noticed that some people, curators, dealers…are choosing to remain home this year, too.

New York’s Armory Show. Image: thearmoryshow.com

Is it the end of the art fair?

A new non-fair, called the Independent, is on from March 4 – 7 at the Dia building in New York, and is billed as a “hybrid model and temporary exhibition forum.” It is the subject of THIS fascinating article in the Observer.

The article states that “New York is going through a moment right now—that the glitzy, frivolous culture of the boom years is giving way to a new era of intellectual engagement and open-minded community among art lovers.”

Johan Lundh’s evening of critical discussion at Fillip’s offices. Image: firtheaglandlundh.net

That same “new seriousness” can be found, here and there, in Canada, though our market wasn’t as deflated as that of the U.S. in the recent economic downturn. Nonetheless, upstart journals such as the excellent Fillip Review from Vancouver and Toronto’s publication Hunter and Cook, run by artists Tony Romano and Jay Isaac, show us that the art world wants to talk. Also, galleries around town are working discussion into their programming. The Toronto Free Gallery is a not-for-profit space that has long been doing this with events that express their mandate to provide a forum for social, cultural, urban and environmental issues.

The Toronto Free Gallery’s executive director, Heather Haynes. Image: photojunkie.ca

New festivals, like the Flash Forward photography festival (coming next fall to Liberty Village in Toronto) aim to blend exhibition opportunities with lectures, workshops and public art – in short, to provide a place for artists and the public to learn, and engage with art in a new, real, hands-on way.

This is also echoed by the Young Patrons groups sprouting up in this city. At various price levels and interest points, they range from the AGO’s NEXT, to the ROM’s Young Patrons Circle to the Canadian Art Foundation’s New Contemporaries (which – disclaimer – I help organize), all of which aim to generate interest, engagement, education and discussion about arts and culture.

Finally, the recent interest in art criticism that is blossoming in Toronto, particularly, in both serious and less serious ways, (and that took off with THIS VoCA post) is heartening.

3 Responses to “The End of the Art Fair?”

  1. Bravo for this voice. There are new ideas in the art world. The sophisticated collector must looking beyond the context and delve into content. As a gallerist, I am working to empower the collector. Intellectual tension in an artwork can be spoken about on many levels. Today’s art market is suffering from marketing strategies of a polarized few.

    We need to find new venues to discuss and enjoy art. Art fair commodifies the art. We need to ensure that the discourse of the work is discussed and not just the context.

  2. anonymous says:

    Ummm, just went to the opening of the Armory, and nope, it is not the end of the art fair. Absolutely true are the endless (and tiring) discussions about the commodification of art through the participation in art fairs. But come on, dealers AND artists need to make a living and it does NOT mean discussion, conceptual and performance based practice, or alternative ambitions need be retired! We have seen the recession murder many traditional (and current) forms of practice leading to pop up exhibitions world wide and humbler exhibitions world wide. It ebbs and flows. YAWN.

  3. André says:

    Andrea , Donald, it’s a great thing to question these models offered to us. Your article raises questions I have been concerned with very much as well right now. Having participated in TIAF (now Art Toronto) with our gallery three times already now and going to NEXT Chicago this late april. It is interesting to note that TIAF was bought last year by Chicago based Merchandise Mart that also boasts VOLTA and Armory in their Fair portfolio. Can we rethink the traditional ‘Fair’ idea. Elizabeth Dee is taking a step in that direction questioning the concept of the fair itself . Yes it’s all been done and seen, and fairs are definitely not the best place to experience art, but a fair is also just another way to generate excitement and media space for the visual arts, a platform for publicizing new and old ideas and practices in art to a wider audience. Seems like we simply need to constantly rethink and adapt these models (paradigms) to what we think art should be about? Seems like Fairs are the contemporary tool that our capitalist systems makes possible, can we rethink and adapt to our needs?? Sure, why not, (takes only one to ignite something..?

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