Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Death of The Art Fair

Damien Hirst, Diamond Skull

Art Basil, established in 1970 and possibly one of the most well known art fairs in the world, is under threat. However, it is not the recent economic crisis which encroaches upon the future of this art legacy, it's the advent of the online art fair. The VIP Art Fair, announced last month, allows the budding art enthusiast to purchase Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andreas Gursky all from the comfort of their recliner. The VIP Art Fair is the idea of two New York couples, James and Jane Cohan, dealers, and Jonas and Alessandra Almgren, internet entrepreneurs, having spent 2 years in the making.

Participants will be able to browse works at more than 50 of the world's leading contemporary art galleries such as White Cube, David Zwirner and Gasgosian. So far this all sounds peachy. You get your art fix without the crowds and you can browse and buy in your underwear. But here comes the punch line. Tickets will cost in the realm of $US 100 on the first two days and $US 20 thereafter. This really begs the question - what are you getting for your money? Cohan laments that "The overall cost is about a fifth of what dealers normally spend [on art fairs]" with 'booths' costing between $US5 000 and $US20 000. In the virtual realm how does one distinguish a good 'booth' position to a bad one?

Todd Levin, a New York art advisor and curator, believes the VIP Art Fair is the dawn of a new age in how to buy art. However, this mode of selling eliminates the parties and social aspect which has often received more publicity than the work for sale, although, according to Levin, "If the social aspect is why you're participating at an art fair, you're not going for the right reason." On this point I whole heartedly and completely disagree.

In London alone there are three art fairs- Frieze, Affordable Art Fair and Zoo- and I have been to all of them. I have also been to Art Basel, only just missing out on going to Art Basel Miami. Did I go with the intention of purchasing a great work of art? Hell no. I could barely afford the flight over. But this was not my purpose in going and I would argue not the purpose of 80% of the people in attendance. It is so very typical of a dealer or gallery, whose main intention and reason for breathing, is to sell art, to have this narrow minded opinion of art fairs. Just because I can't afford a Damien Hirst does not mean that the pleasure of seeing it should be stripped away from me. At least when I pay money to visit an art fair I feel as if I'm getting real value because an art fair isn't always about the art- it's about the experience. It's about being inspired and mixing with like- minded people- my computer screen does not inspire me.

But perhaps this is the whole point. The one thing the VIP Art Fair will achieve is separating the real buyers from people like me- the ones with the real passion- because passion won't buy you that Damien Hirst and if more ventures like the VIP Art Fair take off, art lovers such as myself won't even get the chance to take a second look.
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HotHouse leaves me cold...

July 27-28 2010- The mission is simple: to generate, disseminate and apply ideas for sustainable urban living. With designers and creative thinkers from around the world gathered at the Sydney Opera House to present their case for a sustainable future, HotHouse proposed the notion that we no longer curate art but curate space. I attended the symposium with what I hoped was an open mind but which I knew bordered on cynical.

Designer and ‘urbansit’ Dan Hill was straight to the point when he said ‘In a nutshell the thing that I think is missing… is a sense of getting what the city is actually for- what does it do?’ The two day symposium presented many varied and diverse answers to this question. Writer, lecturer and founder of FutureSt Consulting, Mark Pesce, focused on the city as a social entity, commenting, ‘The city is more than just a residence- it’s a social network,’ and Director of Exhibition & Public Programs at the San Francisco Design Institute, Hou Hanru, reminded people that ‘This kind of urban transformation is a global phenomenon and a very important resource for artistic expression.’

If I had any doubts that we lived in a technological age they all ended as Bruce Mau, pioneer for 'design thinking', author and Chairman/ Founder , Bruce Mau Designs, presented his contribution to the conference- via skype. Talk about saving on carbon admissions. Mau discussed the fundamentals of design and it's relationship to the city. 'The idea starts from the premise that we can make things better... the problems we have today are problems with success not failure.' However, as question and answer time rolled around it seemed as if not everyone was impressed with Mau's contribution. 'I'm incredibly tired of white, English, anglo- males selling romantic fictions of networks technology... The likes of Bruce Mau are not the kind of people you need... I think we should review Mau's tyranny of productivity because it's time to start thinking... Mau is the problem and he needs to disappear.'

Did I walk away believing whole heartedly in a sustainable Sydney and all that that entails? Perhaps. Or perhaps I just spent 2 days in a room full of people who love the sound of their own voice. Jury's still out on that one.
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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Venice Biennale... better late than never...

I know, I know- the 2009 Venice Biennale was over a year ago so instead of ranting on about what was great and what was horrific I thought a photo- montage would better serve. I will say, however, that the Danish, French, Russian and Polish Pavillions were exceptional while the Australian Pavillion was so- so. However, nothing was more disappointing than the British where you could only enter on the hour to endure a painful video work from Steve McQueen in which I actually fell asleep. This was sad as normally McQueen's work is vibrant. While I could blame it on the heat of the day, the walking around, the jet lag- the truth of the matter was it was just a bad work. All in all though I loved the Biennale. The good definitely out weighed the bad and even now, over a year on, I can still remember the works that stood out and the artists who truly represented the best in the world.

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