Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Resist: Inauguration at Una Gallery
Early February links
First Thursday Picks February 2017
Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news
Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks
More Disjecta'd
New Year opportunities
Monday Integrity Links
First Thursday Picks January 2017
Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker
Saying goodby to 2016
Mid December Links

recent comments

categories

 

Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Essays
Interviews
News
Openings & Events
Photoblogs
Reviews
Video
Links
About PORT

regular contributors

 

Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us

 

Contact us

search

 


syndicate

 

Atom
RSS

powered by

 

Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a

 

Creative Commons License

Thursday 10.13.05

« The New Portland Art Museum | Main | TJ Norris opens at Chambers »

Some Post-Affair Thoughts

affair_chairs.jpg

Love it or hate it, the Affair 2005 has come and gone. Yes, the small art in cramped rooms. Yes, the people. Yes, even the rain that threatened to spoil (but only tempered) Friday night's parties.

I was out sick last week, no doubt a victim of the elements (standing outside for hours in winter temperatures in the courtyard of the Jupiter will do that), which has given me lots of time to mull over exactly what went on at the Affair.

As expected, there was far too much art in hot little cramped rooms - which is part of the joy, because, hell, it's an art fair. It's supposed to feel like a bazaar. It's not supposed to be the ultimate aesthetic experience, but a way to see lots of work from lots of places in a condensed context. Plus, it's rooted in commerce (at least theoretically - read DK Row's comments on that in his "After the Affair" wrap-up). Both last year and this year, I heard complaints about the size of the rooms from several people, but I didn't find that the work suffered any more damage than work at large fairs, for example, in row after row of nondescript booths at NYC's armory fair. And, of course, being in close quarters provides the kind of chance encounters and intimacy that attracted the galleries, particularly those from out of town, in the first place.

affair_ext.jpg

Portland being Portland, the Affair is, naturally, a different kind of art fair and its strength lies in its scale. Since Portland is still developing a strong collector's base, and one that still seems to suffer from an attitude of indifference towards collecting work from outside Portland, the sustainablility of its art fair depends on its differences. Talking informally with gallery owners from outside of Portland, who trekked here from cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Houston, it's apparent that this, along with the Portland's well-deserved reputation as a must-see city, was what brought them here, not the promise of lucrative sales. That said, I hope that these types of events will encourage a more sophisticated collector's base, since it's such a crucial element to bringing Portland through its adolescence as an art city.

One thing that is sure to continue is the peripheral room projects and events that lend the Affair a more intellectual bent, ensuring that this is a fair with more than just spectacle. Projects by White Columns and Austin's Fluent~Collaborative helped to provide a counterbalance to the commercial presence, but no doubt the best project was a room of photographs and editions by Mona Hatoum , a teaser for a major exhibition of her work at Reed's Cooley Gallery in November, curated by Stephanie Snyder. Continuing a pattern begun last year, there was a Saturday morning panel discussion with a substantial line-up of national guests. On Sunday, Affair-goers willing to trek to the other side of the river to PNCA were treated to a reading by Wayne Koestenbaum of his yet to be published experimental text on the topic of motels.

Last year's panel discussion on the cultural tourism of art fairs and biennials (which you can find transcribed in the 2005 Affair program) included Larry Rinder and Saul Ostrow. The discussion was refreshingly international in scope, but I left with the feeling that Portland was still provincial, detached from the kinds of art economies and ecologies active in the cosmopolitan cities under discussion. Perhaps it's just a symptom of a humility that comes from being a native Oregonian combined with a cynicism that surely stems from my liberal arts education (or as some might claim, the fact that I'm married to a European). While the Affair did of course begin as part of a critique of uber-art fairs, it also depends on this system of cultural tourism to lure people here. And, while the complexities of cultural tourism and its implications (both good and bad) were discussed at length, much of the discussion revolved about how fairs and biennials have impacted cities and the international art circuit, a discussion that somehow seemed premature for Portland's very first art fair.

This year, the panel tackled the issue of what art patronage means today, which I found to be a very timely topic for Portland in 2005, as the city is trying to figure out how to best help artists on every level, from a concerted city-wide effort to rebrand the city as a cultural hub to grassroots institutions trying to make good on their claims to support local artists. Moderated by Art Papers editor-in-chief Sylvie Fortin, the panel included Austin-based curator Regine Basha, Chicago-based curator and writer Hamza Walker, and two curators who manage large private collections, Andrea Feldman Falcione (Michael and Judy Ovitz) and Kris Kuramitsu (Peter and Eileen Harris Norton). While the panel was less of an interactive discussion and more of a series of monologues on the topic (or in the case of the two private collection curators, promotion for their respective projects), Basha and Walker in particular had valuable insights to offer, some of which crossed-over with Jeff Jahn's current wish list for the city.

patronage.jpg
Sylvie Fortin and Regine Basha

Regine Basha is based in Austin, Texas, another city that has experienced a lot of growth within a relatively short period of time. Basha, who is Adjunct Curator at Arthouse, filled in for Lawrence Miller, an idiosyncratic collector in Austin who founded projects including testsite and the non-profit Fluent~Collaborative. Testsite is a 3 year program that was created to bolster the growth of Austin's art community without the heavy-handedness of an institutional model. Testsite's temporary nature is also set up in a way that they can aid the maturation of Austin's art scene without creating a dependency on the institution's presence, certainly not an easy task.

Besides the flexibility of its (non)institutional model, I like its program to pair young writers with young artists, a way to not only provide documentation for emerging artists, but a valuable strategy to ensure that a corps of articulate writers with deep knowledge about Austin's art scene will be around in 5 or 10 years. This kind of reasoning is exactly why I'm writing for PORT - artists grow up alongside art administrators, gallerists and writers. Everyone has to reach a new level of sophistication in order for the art scene to fully progress.

Another exciting aspect led by Fluent~Collaborative is their effort to help institutions like museums and universities expand their programming by bringing in contemporary artists from outside of Texas (Harrell Flethcer was a guest in 2003). I still shed a tear every time I think about the current state of PICA's visual art program, since they used to be the most dependable source to see contemporary art from outside of Portland (although, I must give lots of credit for the continuation of their excellent lecture series, which is bringing in some key people). And, whenever I hear the line "supporting local artists," the only thing I can think of is that Portland needs a serious mid-level institution far more than yet another DIY grassroots space for emerging local artists.

Hamza Walker articulated a very complete explanation of the way that patronage ties into the larger cultural ecology of a city, from its cultural offerings (counting both fringe and mainstream or entertainment culture) to the impact of its institutions (including DIY spaces, museums and schools). Walker had a very interesting point to make about DIY spaces, which he posited are different now from the artist-run DIY spaces of the 1970s. While they were founded to provide an alternative to commercial galleries, a shift in the 1980s led to the rise of the present type of DIY space, which Walker claimed is simply a commercial gallery without money. He asserted that many of today's DIY spaces would be commercial if they had more money pumped into them. An interesting thing to think about, as I can think of at least a couple of grassroots spaces in Portland have pulled chamaeleon-like stunts as they acquire (or try to acquire) more money. I see DIY spaces trying to act as institutions (without the ever-important vision element) as being part of the same dubious path. DIY spaces should have vision and they should exist to provide a true alternative to commercial or institutional entities.

Walker also had an important point to make about the hype surrounding the concept of "emerging artists," a frenzy that can be seen everywhere. Walker put it bluntly: "Does emerging artists mean emerging art?" The concept of emerging artist isn't in itself a bad notion, but needs to be considered in terms of the question of how these emerging artists can sustain their practice and mature beyond emerging. As Walker pointed out, the schism between the label of "emerging" and the actual substance of the work needs to be addressed. And, as Sylvie Fortin added, discussions about patronage and emerging art need to bring in the notions of sustainability and mobility. I would add, the same kind of thinking needs to inform discussion of Portland as an emerging arts city - it's not enough to be simply emerging. One must be engaged in a non-static process of emerging into aother level of sophistication, always allowing substance to speak louder than the promises of emergence.


Posted by Katherine Bovee on October 13, 2005 at 1:12 | Comments (0)


Comments

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee