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Monday 09.17.07

« A Call for the "Crypto-Zoetropical" | Main | Talking It Up »

Art hullabaloo weekend thoughts & pics

White Columns @ Affair at the Jupiter Hotel 2007, Photo by Sarah Henderson

Well the big Portland vis art weekend has come and gone. Though it needed a name (Critical Mass, Too Much Art etc.) the scene was combination of The Affair at the Jupiter Art Fair, a PACKED last weekend of Rembrandt at PAM, Ursula von Rydingsvard at PAM, last weekend of PICA's TBA visual arts, a bunch of openings, last weekend of Hap Tivey and a confluence of lot of other shows that are up all month.

I've already reported on the Affair some here. It was a better fair for art this year and instead let TBA be the party HQ's. Not a bad idea, though I'm uncertain if there was much crossover between the vis-art collecting crowd and the performance art goers. As I mentioned before, some of the TBA vis arts shows were really underdeveloped and in fact the best show in line with the event wasn't even an official part of TBA.

bad cellphone picture of Hap Tivey's Building White

Hap Tivey's Building White/Eclipse (put on by Elizabeth Leach) showed how to do festival style vis-arts programming right... just take a massive space and make it sing with an elegant combination of elemental light and presentation restraint. Of the two parts Building White was was a good not quite Olafur Eliasson level light & space effort (reminded me of a comet's coma) but Eclipse was one tight, ecstatic moment that was impossible to photograph. With Hap's demonstration in mind maybe next year's TBA vis arts should do less and do it better/tighter and possibly grander in a less spread out way? Word on the street was that people were definitely a bit disappointed this year.

Also, here's an idea whose time has come, should the Pearl District or South Waterfront create community event facilities to better accommodate a festival like TBA? I think so, it's so much smarter than a new convention center hotel.

As far as sales at the affair goes there was a modest improvement... those galleries who communicated with their core West Coast clients prior to the event seemed to have their best affair ever. Those who simply showed up did the same that they have done every year. This makes for a mixed reaction but that mix is directly proportional to the amount of legwork put in by the galleries. Many had their best affair ever.

Cinema Project @ the Affair Photo by Sarah Henderson

This brings me to possible improvements for the Affair. Although the Reed puppet show and cinema projects were very nice additions I think this fair needs something more major to create more national buzz. How about possibly unveiling a major new piece by an important artist like Richard Tuttle, Tim Hawkinson, etc? (a lil residency at the Lumber Room might facilitate it too... hmmm????)

Yes, Devendra Banhart's drawing were surprisingly good but I dont think many will hop on a plane just to see them and most art fairs are already fully of fanciful drawings. Also, there is a nice parking garage below the Jupiter Hotel that has some possibilities as well. How about a show curated by Lauri Firstenberg? Also, there just wasn't enough LA presence here this year and a concerted effort needs to be made there. Besides, Aqua does include LA.

Just taking out an ad in Art Forum won't in itself bring more people here and the Affair is still coasting on Portland's cool destination factor... basically it takes a full court press and Im offering to help, Im certain others can too.

Sure, the fair is fine as it is with modest improvements every year but it's probably time to push it a bit farther. Just pairing with TBA's last weekend seemed neglible and it's time to add some more elaborate exhibition draw beyond what hotel rooms offer. Still, Stuart and Laurel are smart not to overextend the effort. There definitely is a strategy at work here but on its 5th year, the Affair now needs to cultivate more outside collector activity. It already has a good history but it needs another push in the very competitive art fair circuit.


Also veteran Seattle art blogger Carolyn Zick took lots of nice pictures too.

*Update: apparently artists being shown in the affair weren't invited for the $50 gala event. That is a bit of a mistake, you don't have to give them free drink vouchers but collectors do like to hob-knob with artists at those sorts of events. I think Laurel and Stuart were right to take the rock concert out of it but artists add the right kind of energy. Yes there were artist's present friday night but this explains why they werent out in force. Overall an improved affair that needs to clear its throat a little more and lead the scene a little.

My sense is that both TBA and the Affair aren't as worldly as the larger Portland art ecosystem has become. For example the Affair is still a little too mired in the cutesy scribble art that was dated already by 2004 (it was a trend that had come and gone in Portland by 1999-2001, then resurrected by the 2002 Whitney Biennial) but the "kinder art" ratio was much lower this year. Truly, both events are terribly important cultural happenings that probably didn't help each other out much this year. That could be fixed with greater ambitions and planning or maybe the should just go their own way and find their own voices. This year it had all the passion of a marriage of convenience. Not a bad thing but the idea deserves some greater attention.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 17, 2007 at 11:26 | Comments (3)


more photo blogs!!!!!

Posted by: matt_mc [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 17, 2007 11:46 PM

For the record, the top pic is White Columns and the last image is definitely Cinema Project.

Posted by: jenn [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 18, 2007 01:46 AM

Sarah has more photos coming... some really nice stuff.

Thanks Jen

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 18, 2007 09:57 AM

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