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Friday 12.14.07

« Here, There, Nowhere | Main | Report: A NW Thang at Gallery Homeland »

More thoughts on last week: Motel & the art fairs

Overall, the art production for Miami 2007 seemed less fresh and daring than I remember it in 2005 (going to Miami every year isn't necessary) and maybe the art world is too sated. So why not ask... was 2007 in general a lackluster vintage or is it just a fair problem? Also, Jen Graves (who sat this one out) had a good "just that facts" take on Miami this year from a Seattle perspective. Portland galleries mostly avoided Aqua and did ok to great this year. Also, after talking to a few Portland gallerists the fairs most of them want to be in are Pulse or Art Miami.

Overall, Art fair experiences really vary, for example Pulliam Deffenbaugh was at the somewhat lackluster Red Dot fair and yet did really well so it's difficult to characterize. The Aquas have some really good elements but need to up the ante the way Pulse and Nada have since theyve first appeared. Schwanky events, more diverse galleries and something that differentiates and makes the fair a destination. Portland's own Affair at the Jupiter Hotel needs to do the same things just to bring people to Portland. Which brings us to the question, will there be another affair?... OK I know more than Ill discuss here but many Portland dealers really want them to step up and make the event more of a destination or have a completely different fair under different management. Pairing with TBA doesn't really work, two different crowds. If it were paired with a vis-arts festival that would be more effective.

a Motel installtion from July 2005

On the news of Motel's closing last week... Im sad of course, but this wasn't a surprise for me as Jenn and I have a rapport (As PORT's co-founder and former buisiness partner she's like the sister I never had). She wanted to concentrate purely on the gallery when her planned exodus from PORT happened earlier this year (in the works for about a year actually). There are some things Portland needs to learn from this... To begin with, Jenn had a very good gallery yet was virtually ignored critically by the O for 5 years. The O had to go WAY back just to put something into their story. Motel was savvy and showed national and local artists... yet the O once had the ignorance to say they showed artists nobody had ever heard of when in fact DK didn't realize some already had national reputations, even buzz. I'm not here to bash, just show a huge flaw... unless you read PORT or occasionally the Mercury you probably wont have any idea who is really cutting edge and sophisticated in Portland, 'cept if you are an insider. That is the big Portland art scene problem and PORT tries to share some of that inside info.

My point is Portland is often inadequate in reporting what the score is, and terrible at pointing out what is good until it is gone. Jenn was by far the most intelligent of all of Portland's gallerists, and of course it takes more than just brains but it says something when we dont celebrate things until they are gone. (I suspect we will hear of another interesting gallery closing shortly too... this is natural, it isnt the end of the world but to me it seems like many young gallerists are martyrs... though this happens everywhere and Portland already has a new crop). My point is this Portland often publicly celebrates dippy mediocre community efforts with little excellence by the time it reaches the general media and city hall. The city simply HAS to do better at acknowledging real excellence, be it press, politicians and patrons. Some efforts here really are top notch but Portlanders who arent insiders are often last to know. PORT does its part and it would be nice if we weren't so embarrassed by Portland's political initiatives in the arts and our press. Maybe the political front is changing but I'm reserving judgement. Portland needs to work more on its general fear of excellence (especially when so much of it can be found)... I even think the situation is improving (outside the O) but it is not fast enough. Motel had excellence... sure there were things that could have been done differently but none of them were fatal. Art galleries are a tough business and it wears people out and Portland could simply do a better job of supporting what is distinguished. There is a new wave with Jace Gace, Rocks Box, Rerarto etc. but it would have been nice to continue to have Motel.

Here are a few of PORT's reviews of Motel shows:

Jesse Rose Vala 2007

Allison Edge 2006

Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 14, 2007 at 12:17 | Comments (5)


this is sad!

I had thought it was a good sign when motel was transitioning from a semi-boutique to a full-on gallery and doing fairs and braver shows...Portland will be less one good gallery (and we don't have many to spare).

I think it's refreshing that nearly all of the interesting spaces in town are run by women. The best local nonprofit curators, too, are women.

Thanks, Jenn, for all the hard work promoting so many artists and for showing compelling work in a friendly space.

Posted by: inexile [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2007 09:38 PM

Welcome to the world of capitalism and art. The market forces are the ultimate deciders of taste. And when every gallery on the planet wants to go to Miami, those with the means will capitalize on this,and seize the moment, regardless of the ill effects it might bring to the whole. It really felt like going to Walart. Every artist who thinks they deserve more should of made there way to Miami to see where they really fit into the "big picture". Art Now was a dank nasty hotel that had a whole lot of tourist "art" in it. ART NEVER. This show stuck with me through the gray murky pool, because it epitomized my favorite comment of the whole affair "whole lot of work for nothing". I hear ya gigglin, and prompting me to "say that line, again", TJ.
After spending close to 36 hours in four days looking at "art", I can only hope that the market forces send the vast majority a packin. Cleverness and weirdness, does not make for good art, especially when placed beside real skill and talent, it's triteness becomes so apparent. ouch!

Posted by: bnoodle [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 15, 2007 11:48 AM

I was very saddened upon hearing the news of Motel's closure, but I was certainly not surprised. I couldn't agree more that Motel was ignored, which always boggled my mind, because the shows were consistently intriguing. Realistically, I think it was Motel's boutique beginnings that lead to it being ignored. I think much of the public's view was that it was just a little shop that also hung artwork. It's a shame this is happening, but thank you to Jenn for the many years of great exhibitions. Five years is an incredibly long time to stay alive (and relevant) in the art world.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 16, 2007 11:07 PM

It's true that first impressions are often lasting but considering how frequently Portland's scene makes changes I also think that requires a more reacative supple and open minded coverage to remain relevant to developments here.

I also believe that a mediocre gallery run by a male in the same spot with the same shop/gallery aesthetic would have recieved a warmer reception.

There is a lot of work to do and Jen has done a lot of heavy lifting. Ignoring excellence is a BIG problem, ignoring excellence by smart women (who are often the backbone of Portland's scene) is just plain wrong.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 17, 2007 09:44 AM

A couple of points if I may...

First, anyone that decides to open a gallery deserves some credit. There are a thousand other ventures a person could spend their time and money on, and probably be more profitable. Sometimes it lasts, sometimes not. I'm sure these visual entrepeneurs are well aware of that possibility. They (like the artists they show and represent) have a vision that may not correspond to the balance sheet. It's still better than going "woulda, coulda, shoulda" years later.

Second, You're all over the Oregonian, and good points are made. I would just say that all large media companies have very tight corporate editorial control. Typical old-boys network at play. They'll never change. Best thing to do is ignore them...they'll implode on their own as their relevance wanes.

As for Miami, bnoodle makes some interesting observations. However, fairs and tradeshows are by nature exhausting. Whether it's art or farm equipment. You want exhausting, try Comdex in Vegas. Going to an art fair to quietly contemplate art, is like going to Costco to pick up a candy bar. Apples. Oranges.

Thanks for allowing me to comment.

Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2007 08:41 PM

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