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Thursday 02.21.08

« Limelight Curator Talk | Main | Io Palmer lectures at Reed »

Jupiter Hotel Fair, resurrected?

JAffair07_cSarahHenderson_0722.jpg

Ok, I knew this wasnt going to just die, Portland is just too ambitious and organized. Besides the fair itself was solid, one senses the organizers themselves just ran out of steam for a big side project.

According to Jupiter hotel owners The AFFAIR @ the Jupiter Hotel art fair may not retain the same organizers, name or look, but there is a momentum in the Portland art community for continuing the popular art fair headquartered at the Jupiter Hotel since 2004. According to Jupiter Hotel co-owner Kelsey Bunker, "While it is true that Stuart Horodner and Laurel Gitlen will not be running the AFFAIR @ the Jupiter Hotel, we are excited about the new opportunities this allows us to support the art communities both locally and nationally."

Bunker and co-owner Tod Breslau will meet with gallery owners, collectors and art event promoters as early as next week to determine the best way to take the new Art @ the Jupiter Hotel to the next level. "We are brainstorming forward thinking concepts that will help continue to put Portland on the national art map." Bunker has created an open line of communication at [art @ jupiterhotel.com] for members of the public who are passionate about the AFFAIR @ the Jupiter Hotel and eager to share thoughts and ideas.

My intitial response; first of all it needs to remain a high end art fair... in fact it needs to have an even more pretigious draw (which requires sophisticated organizers with contacts. I can think of at least 3 ideal people off the top of my head ... a 4th one was already approached last October). Let's just say an art swap meet wont cut it, though the masses will likely call for such a thing.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 21, 2008 at 9:44 | Comments (36)


Comments

Hmmm...this feels like a good chance to do a different sort of art fair. It seems like most of the better galleries (Portland/Seattle excepted) dropped out before last year, probably because they weren't making as much money and there are so many other fairs now.

It would be a shame to have a fair full of cut-rate galleries and work, but maybe there is a way to select younger spaces with more experimental (read: less commercial) programming. Make it somehow affordable and let it get some life again.

Additionally (or alternately) it would be great to see a fair taken over by more artist projects and nonprofit spaces than galleries...if we could get some hot performances and exhibits, maybe it would draw enough decent collectors to make it worth the time and money of a good set of galleries. Maybe the new version of the fair could be more integrated with TBA as well.

These are far-fetched daydreams, I'm sure, but the fair, in its recent form, has not really given us much worth missing.

Posted by: inexile [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2008 06:07 PM

I dont think you are being far-fetched at all, I was alluding to the same ideas. Ive already spoken with many dealers and the Jupiter people a bit and so far I like how the Jupiter people are thinking... no talk of going cheesier.

Art fairs are going to have a tough year in 2008.

That said Id liketo clear up one popular misconception... many galleries have done well every year at the Affair so it isnt like the fair was an outright financial route (you have to take it on a dealer by dealer basis). Allston Skirt definitely comes to mind as a gallery that did well every year.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 09:30 AM

I agree this needs to be a fair of greater prestige. And viability is also a huge factor. Luring younger spaces to the fair seems a bit double edged. ( I am wondering how many younger galleries never reopened their doors after Miami.) A gallery that comes from out of town, has an expectation of at least being able to break even after they shell out 5 to 6 thousand to get it here. At least thats the word I got from Chicago and Philly galleries that I saw in Miami this past Dec. And a big yes to programming and scheduled events. One might want to checkout the organization of Art Chicago vs Miami Basel for two completely different approaches. Art Chicago is organized by trade show people with art world liaison. I feel there needs to be a full time dedicated group that exists only for the sake of the fairs organization. I for one was hoping it wouldn't be at the Jupiter again, such a rent by the hour, shooting gallery hotel, with lube shop for easy access. Come on Portland your more mature than this!

Posted by: bnoodle [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 10:12 AM

Im not ceratin how many hotel fairs youve been to but the Jupiter is actually really nice as a venue. Yes I do think it would take a dedicated team... it always does.

Also, are you proposing a more puritanically sanitzed art fair? in Portland? It doesnt seem to fit the character of the city or any art fair for that matter... Hell Macarthy's chocolate butt blug Santas went over big at the Art Bsel Miami Beach fair last December.

this link will make your day: http://c-monster.net/blog1/2008/01/25/how-to-preserve-a-chocolate-butt-plug-santa/

Im not certain the "next fair" even needs to be an art fair concentrated on sales... a new event could be better without the commerce factor. 2008 will be hard for traditional art fairs.


Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 10:55 AM

Pardon my compulsion to comment again, but art fairs are about sales. Any art fair not about sales isn't an art fair, it's something else, maybe an exhibition or event? Also, by the way, in case you were confused, galleries are about commerce too. Galleries' primary function is to sell art. Bryan is spot on, no gallery, especially a young one on a tight budget, is going to sign on for a small fair when sales look questionable. Galleries do of course, do lots of fairs where they don't rake in a profit, but usually this is because they know it's worth it because of the profile and promotional aspects. I'm sorry to burst your Portland bubble, but The Affair and any forthcoming fair are not and never have been high in sales or prestige. It's about community and having fun and trying to put Portland on the map. And, as mentioned above, there are lots of other fairs around the world that offer sales and prestige, so it's going to be a tough sell to get notable out of town galleries here, especially without Laurel and Stuart at the helm. I agree with Jeff, there are only about 2-3 people who could possibly pull off a fair in Portland with any sort of professional, national relevance. However, it seems doubtful that any of these have the time or energy to commit to such an endeavor. It seems far more likely to become Everett Station Lofts and Alberta Street Fair at the Jupiter Hotel.

Posted by: jenn [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 12:05 PM

And yes, I agree, the lube shop is totally tacky and embarrassing.

Posted by: jenn [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 12:08 PM

I can agree that "any art fair not about sales isn't an art fair," but I don't think there's a super practical reason to adhere to definitions: perhaps as artists, dealers and collectors burn out on the current structure and format of the fairs (and they are), some hybridizations will occur. I don't know if Portland has the money for a different model, but we certainly have the verve.

One positive side of the Miami explosion is the satellite exhibitions- not the other 20 fairs, but the glut of nonprofits, collectives, private collections, etc that all happen that same week now. One could spend the weekend seeing work and not even go to a single fair. Some out of town galleries are also renting off-site spaces to show large scale and installation-type work.

Imagine (and I won't even pretend to understand the financial challenges of this idea) a new kind of fair (or exhibition/event/etc) with disparate sites both commercial and non, in a small city like Portland. Many biennials feel like this- you can walk or shuttle between venues, and one of my favorite parts of TBA is biking from show to show. The advantage of having a commercial gallery presence (unlike biennials) would be simply to have more work from more places. One of the last enjoyable aspects of the fairs remains glimpsing a microcosm of another city's art scene, or at least the shippable, sale-able side of it (since you mention Allston Skirt- if I just saw their space I'd think the Boston art scene was pretty damn exciting (sorry)).

I think the reason I even care about this is that September has really become fun to look forward to: TBA is gathering momentum and attracting more patrons from afar. And I just want there to be more...especially in the visual arts arena.

I suppose Jupiter has its own charm, but I wouldn't really miss it as an art venue. I would much rather see something sprawl across the Pearl and Downtown, with outdoor works in the Park blocks and at the Waterfront.

Posted by: inexile [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 01:27 PM

I think a different model is doable... and if we find it sooo necessary to quibble over terms then lets call a non-sales driven event an "art exposition." BFD

I suspect a hybrid will take shape... with some commerce and some noncommerial elements (which was happening to some degree alraedy at the affair).

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2008 05:01 PM

It certainly is a puzzler that more major galleries weren't signing up for the Jupiter fair. I called the Mary Boone Gallery last week to query her about her absence but she was on the other line with Charles Saatchi. I did leave my number and when she calls back I will pass along her opinions.
Did anyone see Arlene Schnitzer at the last fair? Sadly I missed her, but I know how much she loves squeezing past throngs of gawkers in her hunger to buy work from other cities that looks almost identical to the work she ignores in local galleries.
There is no question that a successful art fair is a necessary component in our battle to get the rest of the world to recognize how great we think our local artists are. I'm not rich but ever since the Miami art fair gained prominence I've been investing what little I can in snapping up the work of Miami artists. I know that soon they will be dominating the covers of Art Forum and Modern Painters. And that could happen to us!!! We all just have to keep producing high end work until our genius is finally discovered.

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2008 07:33 AM

In all seriousness a venue with larger spaces would improve any potential fairs enormously. The rooms at the Jupiter were so small that I couldn't snort coke in the bathroom without everyone hearing.

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2008 07:42 AM

LOL

Still I think the Jupiter is a somewhat ideal location. It's urban, has the Doug Fir, a good music venue that could be incorporated into an improved event and the hotel rooms are actually pretty darn good for showing art (as far as hotels go).

Last but not least it has already built up a history.... some Portlanders often want to cut and run when things end but it's important to build upon momentum rather than starting over from scratch all the time.

Sure, there might be a better location but it probably isnt a hotel.

The usefulness of the Jupiter was the way it did generate sales (yes some galleriess sold a lot of work, others didn't) and expose potential and occassional collectors to a lot of work all at once, Portland is young as a collecting city but rather experienced as an artist's enclave... thats's the reality and the Jupiter simply was just another mixer helping to bridge the gap.

Ive always considered it unrealistic to think that Portland is some art commerce center... we arent a financial center we are an artistic production and (increasingly) an idea center. A rebel base that just needs to learn how to support good ideas and efforts rather than amateurish wishful thinking. I think the city's learned some good lessons lately and the fair event revamp is an opportunity to put that thinking to work. Portland will save things worth saving... it's a new development Ive seen lately... actually asking what is and isn't worth saving?

Something like the jupiter is worth saving.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2008 09:53 AM

I agree, Portland certainly is not an art commerce center and is definitely more focused on production. But by that logic, the Jupiter is not worth saving because it's focused on commerce, whereas (to use another recent closing) PAC should have been worth saving because it actually supported the art/idea production. It helped to sustain what's already here, but the Affair brought work in from out of town instead.

Portland is, as you say, young as a collecting city (actually, as an everything city). But is a hip, out-of-towner art fair really what is going to boost collecting? I'm no rich kid, I save up every year to buy a little art, and I've never bought anything from the Jupiter. To me, the Affair was way more about the party scene than about collecting. As evidenced by the coke snorting comment above, I'm not the only one who thought of it that way.

Posted by: amohammed [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2008 04:25 PM

The Jupiter has brought out some very serious collectors, and some gallerys have made a lot of money at it. Some very serious, nationally notable art has been shown there (that I saw later in Miami for more $$$)... the quality alone justifies it. Also, people need to be reminded that there is a disproportionate amount of art commerce here already. Portland has more galleries than many places 3 times its size, that is commerce folks (though it is young). I know many artists who sell work for over $2,000 here and dont have a traditional gallery... that's a collector base. We simply need more very very serious collectors and that takes time.

Overall, quality not quality justifies things, that is the paradigm that matters... not how many SQ feet, not how many artists participate (which is useful mostly as a sifting mechanism). Not even how many people buy art matters (which helps a lot but isnt the key). The key is quality.

The trick is making the next incarnation an even more quality event. Good things are afoot... the discussions are raging. Ive met with the jupiter people, planners and some of the key PADA dealers...I think everyone's got their head screwed on straight.

Quality and reputation really matter... art is not a democratic process... it's a meritocracy. Other recent events have also come across the issue of quality.

Even PAM has to continually consider the relevance of what they do. They have to ask "is this museum worthy?" I think PAM just hit a home run tapping Jenene Nagy. It's very mature/complex work from someone so young (frankly I doubted her more simply because i know her, then boom False Flat takes the roof off... now s/plit furthers her very national attention worthy work). The Richard Deacon show is also very tuned, whether you love it or hate it it's top notch work that will be touring the US for he next year and a half.

Quality (thought & execution etc) = Relevance and quality is what is worth saving... otherwise wed all be drowning in a eutrophic cesspool of art!

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2008 05:07 PM

I'm going to go a bit off topic here and respond primarily to the previous post by Double J. I don't have much to say about the affair at the Jupiter other than that I consider it's loss of little importance in our struggle to evolve into a more recognized cultural center. A similar type of event might become important in the future but for now it seems a premature concern.
I appreciate Double Js' emphasis on quality although it is impossible to know if our definitions coincide nor does it matter for the points I would like to make.
. The main issue it raises for me is how to increase the quality of the work being done in Portland. It may be true that our city has many artists of comparable achievement to those in New York City but every year that boast becomes more meaningless. It seems to me that the general feeling among artists in Portland of being on the verge of discovery and validation by the national art world has created an over-long giddiness that has distracted many from the more important job of producing better work.
I am not at all a supporter of the notion of an artist being "good enough". All the excitement and anticipation of the past few years has led to far too much cheerleading and back-patting and to my mind has created delusions of excellence that are not supported by the majority of work I see in local venues.
Most of the great art centers of the past came about in large part through the combination of abundant financial backing and fierce competition and argumentation. I realize that there are new models and values of collaboration, pluralism and arts group inclusiveness. I will go into my opinions about these some other time.
Even before the emergence of the friendly trends just mentioned there was an obvious lack of useful critical confrontation in Portland. The few art journalists then, as now, were long on opinion and short on meaningful insight or even clearly articulated positions.
There really isn't much that we can do to convince people with excess capital to spend it on art, and I am seriously tired of listening to people complain about the lack of attention and funding that they receive. Small city etiquette won't allow my voicing the thought that almost always arises - "maybe your work just isn't good enough". Neither flattery nor inarticulate judgment can turn talent into vision. Actually nothing can, but continuous support and unearned praise can suspend even the ambitious artist in a purgatory of unrecognized mediocrity. I would like to see some thought and strategy go towards finding ways to address this problem. I think we should look at each other with a little more rigor and honesty before expecting the rest of the world to look at us.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 08:27 AM

Just a couple more points in reference to the post by Double J. It makes me sad but experience forces me to disagree with the assertion that art is a meritocracy and not a democratic process. It's not exactly either but as regards the forming of a reputation it is closer to a democracy in which there is no parity between the voters. Since there is no agreed upon standard for assessing quality many highly successful careers are built through consensus about their importance by individuals in positions of power in the art world. I don't intend this to sound conspiratorial though at times it is - I would guess that the process is complex and generally organic. I do however want to emphasize the point that being in a position of power proves nothing about a persons superiority in discerning quality. No artist should allow their sensibility to be invalidated by the voices of assumed authority.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 09:15 AM

First of all some of the work here is truly exceptional... the emporer has clothes. Yes there is hype, but I differentiate generalist hype (like the NYT's Portland is cool thing) from buzz about specific artists. It's why a serious approach to criticism matters, not because it is the final arbiter, but because it is produced with rigorous expectations and thought.

So yes the buzz on MK Guth, Jenene Nagy, Sean Healy, Storm Tharp, Matthew Picton, Tom Cramer, Bruce Conkle, Patrick Rock, Vanessa Renwick, Joe Thurston, Laura Fritz, Adam Sorenson, Ellen George and Matt McCormick etc... is justified... both locallly and outside of Portland to varying degrees. The backlash is understandable but be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Sometimes people just get bitter because leaders have emerged and they arent counted in their ranks. Don't worry Portland still has room, work hard and show smart and youll get noticed (and vetted by some sort of consensus).

The Jupiter itself was helpful but could be improved significantly... I prefer it break a little more from the standard art fair model.

BF To respond to your statement... the meritocrcy I speak of is vetted in a multifaceted way. No one person is an arbiter of taste and it often only takes a consensus of 2 people...

I dont consider a consensus of 2 to be a truly democractic... that's just a personal agreement bewteen two individuals.

I dont think its an issue of assumed authority either. Most people in the art world accrue their reputation for "an eye" the same way an artist's work is vetted... though it takes a little more of a track record.

Personally, Ive been surprised Ive been able to pick so many artists who have done well on various stages; Cao Fei, Hank Willis Thomas, Tim Bavington, Lee Walton, Weppler and Mahovsky, Sean Healy, MK Guth, Bruce Conkle, Jesse Hayward, Ellen George, Tom Cramer, Jenene Nagy, Matthew Picton etc. In each case I had a strong but questioning reaction... not an instant love for the work. I follow the question and it's a strategy that has served me well.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 10:28 AM

Julie and I were watching TV the other night when the Oscars were on. Julie wanted to watch the Oscars and I wanted to watch this thing were they were trying to clean out a pool filed with crocodiles, aligators, and snapping turtles. I just thought trying to convince a 10' long 500 pound crocodile to leave its pool with a thin aluminum stick made for more compelling TV than a boring award show that I feel is not that relevant to my life. Now if they would have put the crocodiles in the aisles and snapping turtles under the seat of some of the celebrities at the Oscars, we could have had the best of both worlds and the ratings would be through the roof.

It got me thinking about the Oscars, and most awards shows in general, and I realized that they have done a brillant job in convincing the public that these awards are actually important. They have told a very compelling story about how movies, which by the way is the product that they are selling, is somehow essential in an undefinable way to the American experience.

I am have slow coming around to my point but here it is, they told a story about why we should care about what they were selling.

Another example, when Wyden is marketing Nike shoes, they don't just say "Addidas sucks, buy Nike!" (If you guys use this by the way, I want a cut. Nike signed Michael Jordan and let Jordan tell the story of what Nike is about. They did the same thing with Kobe and Tiger Woods. By buying their product, you are somehow buying into the achievements of these other guys. In other words, they found an effective way to tell a compelling story.

Now you might say that has nothing to do with art and I won't argue with you except that two of the biggest buyers of contemporary art have been advertising people: Charles Saatchi and Jay Chiat. Let me see if this rings a bell. A bunch kids straight out of school from mostly poor neighborhoods rise up to overthrow the tyranny of the existing infrastructure of over the hill, stuck in the past, older artists. Umm, my guess that would be the YBA's.

New York keeps repeating to itself that it is the center of the art world, and the more that is eroded, the louder the repeating becomes. You bet Eli Broad is trying to hammer home a history of late twentieth century art that just happens to revolve around his collection.

So what's your story? What's Portland's story? If you can't explain why people should be interested in your work, they won't be.

Now, I feel like I have just given a kid a stick of dynamite with a few matches and I am trying to advise some caution about blowing things up. First, is your ability to tell a story that fastest way to make your work become successful. I think that it is. Does your story eventually become a caricature about you and your work? Absolutely, I would submit the recent work of Hirst as example number one and it is hard for us to even get excited about Nike ads anymore.

The trade off is that the in order to tell a clear story, you have to simplify things and sooner or later the simplifications come back to haunt you. So a story solves some problems and creates other ones later on.

I think that we have it pretty good in Portland. No one makes any money, so we all get along, more or less. Because it is hard to find people to buy what we are producing we have a lot of freedom to be who we are as people, not caricatures. We have the opportunity to explore our ideas in an environment in which our audience is others artists. The audience also genuinely cares about art, not money, not status, not priviledge, not vetting.

That sounds pretty good to me. It is a real environment without a lot of hype to prevent us from seeing what we are doing.

Posted by: Arcy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 02:39 PM

Beardfallacy, thank you for your very thoughtful, very relevant comments of 8:27am. I agree with your assessment that there are very few art journalists in Portland with any meaningful insight...some with any insight at all. So the question in my mind, after reading your well-articulated comments above is, why aren't YOU writing about art in Portland? No, stop laughing, I'm serious.

Posted by: amohammed [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 04:25 PM

It's true the experience of the work seems to be the only real currency in Portland... everyone is pretty approachable. Still somehow I feel 2008 will be about the stories you talk about Arcy. But I disagree in that I feel those stories will be vetted though through the unfortunate but necessary caracacture process (along with a counterforce of greater scholarship)... I dont think the artists care much for being a caracature but I think the engines that will drive more attention and understanding to art here (and elsewhere) do.

My point is things are always being vetted in any active art scene... artists are constantly being compared to Rothko and Tom Sachs etc. The ideas and art that are produced survive this consensus building through merit... in fact its money that often gumms up the system. There is some money at work and commercialism here... I wouldnt say that nobody is making money (its technically false)... like most art scenes that most artists arent making very much. Lately that has changed on the international stage and I think its made the art world somewhat duller. Why? because people expect compensation. That makes the art different, fawning and purposefully more acessible.

Portland retains some of its mystery because the machinery here is less developed. That gives artists a bit of a sanctuary to develop in... so when Joe Thurston shows in San Francisco his work not only looks a little different, it feels different. Same with Bruce Conkle and Sean Healy etc. Its tough to quantify but its a very real difference.

Nick Cave Picked up on it earlier this month... he liked the energy and the lack of B.S.

What made the affair nice is it allowed Portland artists to show dealers their strengths on their own home turf. Some dealers even made a lot of money.

One of Portland's biggest problems is people fail to see what it does well (they dont know the score)... instead they count heads. Art isnt a democratic process... if everyone voted for their favorite local artist in town the winner would likely be cheeesy and embarassing. I glad its a system of gatekeepers... the good news is most of them are pretty decent people (and uncorrupted by $$$) with a lot of knowledge they are willing to share. It isn't like tha most places, it isnt so genrous elsewhere.

The reason the YBA's took off is key people like Hirst and Saatchi were very generous, while still retaining high standards. I think things are developing in a less forced way in Portland though, there isnt just one formula or artist around whom everything orbits.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 06:58 PM

I am not sure how much of Double Js' post at 10:28 AM is a response to my previous posts but I guess I will risk the potential embarrassment of assuming that most, if not all, of it is. So let me say first that my posts were not written out of bitterness or desire to be counted among the arts leaders that have emerged. I might want to have a few drinks with this group of strangers but suspect that I would be double fisting the whiskys after an hour of conversation. Can't know of course and I like my drink well enough that it's not much of a dig.
I also need to express my dislike of the word "vetting" in an arts context - its connotations of authoritative validation too strongly suggest that it constitutes a proof. That said I am not one of those people that thinks that all opinions are equally valid. Art as a field of knowledge offers no real way to measure a persons intellectual and aesthetic depth making comparison difficult and the bestowing of hierarchical dominance always open to questioning. Still I do believe the knowledge that can be acquired through commitment and ambition in whatever territories of the art world one chooses is real knowledge and worthy of more respect than it generally receives.
The democracy vs meritocracy disagreement probably doesn't deserve much more attention but in my defense I don't believe I made any points that suggested that I thought the art world was "truly democratic". And, out of curiosity, could you name for me an artist who has been "vetted" by a consensus of two? I'm also wondering if an artist can be "unvetted" by a consensus of two. Or is it a case of "once vetted, vetted for life"?
As to the issue of assumed authority the point that I meant to make is that just because a person has power in the art world one shouldn't assume that they possess the above mentioned depth of knowledge and sensibility. Some do, some don't. An easy way to illustrate the latter is to look at the least examined wielder of power: the wealthy collector. Take Arlene Schnitzer for example- she has a passable eye that is compromised by her taste for kitsch. As far as her grasp of more intellectual content goes...well she might not even understand what the first half of this sentence is referring to. I would guess that her tastes are pretty much irrelevant or even completely unknown to the younger generations of Portland artists. But she has had much influence on the work made by older Portland artists.
Since we are beginning to name names, and rightly so lest we get mired in generalization. I should be open about my opinion that MK Guths' work is not even close to being exceptional and in my estimation hovers somewhere south of mediocrity. Before everyone jumps all over me I must explain that this opinion is honestly in no way personal (I don't know her) and is not formed by jealousy or close-minded disdain for the categories of art practice she inhabits. I don't wish to express contempt (though it is a difficult tone to avoid) towards her or any of her other activities in the community. I don't know but I would guess that her presence here is a boon to the local art scene. I won't launch into a a general justification of my opinion now but I have posted a response to a particular article that can be found at

http://blog.oregonlive.com/visualarts/2007/12/braiding_powerful_questions.html#comments

I did not post it 5 times as some sort of joke about serialism.
I want to stress that I am not entirely close-minded about my opinion. I really would like to hear from advocates of her work, though it is doubtful that I will be swayed dramatically. Frankly I am dumbfounded by the attention her work has received. Please enlighten me.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 09:50 PM

In response to the flattering post by amohammed that encouraged me to write about art in Portland... I guess that I am doing something like that now, but this writing obsession only emerged recently and caught me by surprise. Since it came along unplanned I can't be sure that it won't suddenly disappear. I wouldn't really want to get to involved in reviewing shows anyway - I would quickly become frustrated with the limitations of language. The most useful critiques for visual artists would have to involve being physically present with the work - the most effective form for communicating specific points requires the act of pointing.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 26, 2008 10:22 PM

I appreciate your participation here... though I cant share your opinions (that's fine).

Some artists that were essentially vetted by a consensus of 2 or less:

Damien Hirst & Charles Saatchi

Jackson Pollock & Clement Greenberg

Early on Stuart Horodner and I were pretty much the only two fans Jesse Hayward had in Portland. Now more people have jumped on the wagon but the moment of acceptance came from Stuart and I with some help from Jane Beebe. But the moment of "watch this one" was pretty much just a couple of people saying so.

MK's one smart cookie and has been doing exceptonal things for well over a decade in Portland (I originally saw her cast honey bears and I was hooked from then on). The braids will be very visually arresting at the Whitney... just wait. Seriously, MK's the furthest thing from mediocre.

I dont worry about vetting, I welcome the process... I kinda like to watch the gears of culture turn. All talented people need to be pushed a to realize their full potential.

Also, Arlene Schnitzer is a LOT brighter than you are giving her credit for. The thing that struck me first was her curiousity...it's penetrating. BTW the Morris Graves from her collection as a promised loan to the museum Brazilian Screamer... is a a very very good one. She doesnt have a tin eye.

How this all relates to the jupiter is beyond me. The fair matters becauser it keeps moving new art and people throgh Portland... it was also an easy way for Portlanders to get involved in the international art market... just walking into a gallery doesnt allow one to get much in terms of art experience... it takes repeated visits.

True art fairs are kind of like the Cliff Notes of art collecting but I think making an easy access point for Portlanders and outsiders is a good idea as an annual event.


Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 27, 2008 09:52 AM

This particular form of engaging in dialogue is very new to me and I am beginning to get a sense of its' deficits in comparison to conversation. I am fine with disagreeing as well and anticipate a continuing lack of a "meeting of minds". It became clear to me in your post that I have no clear idea of your definition of "vetting" and wonder if it is one of those words appropriated by the art world and given a special meaning that seems less intended to facilitate communication than to create a divide between insiders and outsiders. Usually when confronted with that kind of jargon I want to throw the complete works of Wittgenstein at the users head. His output was slim so death or serious injury would be unlikely. I feel sure that this will be yet another point of disagreement. I simply cannot make sense of your statements using any of the standard definitions of the word. I would appreciate a brief definition of your usage so that I can at least understand what you are trying to say.
Your paragraph on MK Guth basically says that she is smart(which is not the same thing as saying her work is smart) and that you like her work visually. I was hoping for a bit more substantial explication of the virtues of her work. Maybe next time.
My experience with Arlene Schnitzer sounds very different from your own though I would hope people would recognize the rhetorical exaggeration used in assessing her intellect. And I did not accuse her of having a tin eye and don't have much patience with straw man arguments.
I stated a few posts back that I was heading off topic and assumed that, this being an arts forum, that such a shift is acceptable especially given that I was responding to points raised in a previous post.
And to disagree again - nothing in your defense of the fairs' importance contained enough specific examples to convince me. For example in what way did Portlanders get involved in the international art market? Are you talking about artists making connections that might actually result in opportunities to show internationally? Or is it just an opportunity to see work in far less than optimum conditions that resembles the art seen in magazines? The measure of its importance would need to contain actual stories of concrete benefit to specific individuals. The values you argue are far too vague and subjective to make it an event worth fighting to sustain. Don't you agree?

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 27, 2008 11:56 AM

From Wikipedia: Broadly, vetting is a process of examination and evaluation. Specifically, vetting often refers to performing a background check on someone before offering them employment. In addition, in intelligence gathering, assets are vetted to determine their usefulness.

The "background check" is important in art... not for what school etc that they went to but to determine the arc of their work. An new artist often creates a body of work which can be vetted... a more established artist has even more opportunities for comparative analysis.

I'm not going to engage in a full scale evaluation of MK's work... I leave that to reviews like this: http://www.portlandart.net/archives/2006/10/last_chance_to.html

My goal isnt to necessarily to sway you about the affair... you simply might not be ready to hear it. It was an important opportity builder and collector gateway for the art community. Improving upon it with another event is in our best interests. It was never just about money and the new event will likely fall in that tradition.

Ive read the Wittgenstein... and may I offer that we seem to have our own solipsistic takes on The Affair. Mine is grounded in the very real experence of artists and gallerists having benefitted from it taking place for the past 4 years. The Affair had its problems but the benefits will far outlast the event.

Also, yes Its ok to ramble around here, just as long as we try to return to the original subject. A replacement for the affair.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 27, 2008 12:34 PM

Yes that is my understanding of the definition of the word "vetting" but I still don't see it's usefulness in describing the relationship between between Damien Hirst and Charles Saatchi without stretching it to vagueness. I think there must be common words or combinations of words that would be more precise and would help differentiate the above relationship and that of Pollack and Greenberg. The two narratives of career building have significant differences that beg different questions about the establishment of "quality". This issue is getting a bit over-worked and we should just let it go because really it is fairly trivial in relationship to other potential disagreements. Having the sensibility of a miniaturist and a dissector I find it difficult to let go of details and almost always begin with the intimate to illustrate broader points.

As to MK Guth, it is best to wait until their is a specific show or piece before prolonging any arguments about her works merit. I admit that my call for points of advocacy is too general for me to expect a response - I am often guilty of having absurd expectations of other people no matter how many times I am proved wrong. And it is much more difficult to praise convincingly than it is to criticize.

As to your points about the importance of the fair your suggestion that I "might not be ready to hear it" is presumptuous and condescending even with the hedging usage of the word "might" - it's a cheap device to assert superiority especially since we don't know each other.

That isn't really an argument against your assessment of the importance of the fair and I can't claim to have the sort of inside information that you possess so I do have to bow to your greater authority. My experience was merely real or, given my chemical state, perhaps half-real. In either case it falls short of being "very real".

At the moment I don't have any fleshed out ideas about how the fair or a surrogate event could be improved. I know it will depend on connections both local and national and I don't have access to any. Anyone who does should be aggressive about pursuing them as I think a more solid foundation is needed for such an event to not depend on sales for it's continuance. More personally I have found the experience of locally curated shows that include out-of-town artists much more rewarding. Art fairs in general (and I have been to some major ones) tend to, in the onslaught of unrelated works, undermine the individual power of pieces to the point that even most reviews of fairs tend to offer a checklist of the famous artists represented (and of course the local favorites).

The importance of fairs is mostly in the building of connections between the various partys involved and their most important value isn't realized until after the event is over. It is important to be able to bring galleries financially healthy enough not to depend on making a profit at the fair, though, of course, there would have to exist longer term benefits to their business. Not an easy problem to solve.

Wow I ended up saying something about the fair after all. And to be a bit kinder to the two of us I think our self-absorption, however pronounced, doesn't quite rise to the level of solipsism. But maybe I'm just talking to myself.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 27, 2008 11:32 PM

To further clarify - I can't help myself- my glib sounding dismissal of of the importance of a local art fair was not based on a general rejection of the potential importance of art fairs for a mid-sized city with a proliferating art scene. The fact that we have artists producing work worthy of notice is a motivation for wanting a fair but isn't a significant factor in the building of a more prestigious art fair (other than the power of "buzz"). I just think that we need more economical incentive to bring better galleries to Portland. Galleries are not motivated to go to fairs by the desire to scout for local artists to represent. And how many small to mid-sized cities across the country have the same feeling about their art communities. We might be "special" but just because we believe it doesn't necessarily mean much anywhere else.

I would also like to say a bit more about the vetting (I'll drop the distracting and argumentative quotation marks) of Demien Hirst by Charles Saatchi. The power of Hirsts best work comes mostly from its realization and not from his concepts. I'm not saying that his ideas are bad but without Saatchis generous financial investment his name would likely have remained unknown. There is no way of knowing the quality of the ideas floating around in the minds of less fortunate artists at the time and how much exposure Saatchi had to them.

This is not meant as a critique of Saatchis taste - I like many of the artists that he brought into prominence- but that we can't really have a broad enough base of comparison to prove anything about his relative superiority of taste. If Hirst had only 100 pounds to realize the suspended shark idea it probably would have looked pretty crappy. And there have probably been many artists of comparable vision who were defeated too early by a variety real life reasons.

I am not suggesting that this is a huge factor - Most artists with a compulsion to express something find a way to do it. And there is an argument for the art world being a meritocracy but if it is it is only marginally so. We simply don't have access to the work of the losers in the art historical sweepstakes.

To get back to a local illustration of this point - when the curators from the Whitney come to town they rely on the recommendations of a few individuals in positions of influence. It is usually a relatively small group of individuals and they reflect more the tastes and special interests of those doing the recommending than any actual qualitative supremacy among the various kinds of work being done here. This isn't a complaint - the world works how it works and injustice begins at birth. I have no yearning to be validated by that institution (though I would welcome the financial rewards) - I just wanted to bring the point home so it might be better recognized.

As an aside - I would love to see an art history book that focused on the specific economical circumstances under which work was made. Most popular information tends to support the myth of poverty as some sort of spurring to greatness. That book probably won't happen but I would like it if artists stopped associating some kind of shame or diminished authenticity to open discussion of the importance of financial backing. It won't make you dirty.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2008 01:17 AM

I guess I am proving my status as unemployed but I feel compelled to post a rewrite of the fifth paragraph above to avoid confusion.

To get back to a local illustration of this point - when the curators from the Whitney come to town they rely on the recommendations of a few individuals in positions of influence. It is usually a relatively small group of artists that are recommended to receive studio visits and they reflect more the tastes and special interests of those doing the recommending than any actual qualitative superiority to other artists working in in a wide variety of media in Portland. This isn't a complaint - the world works how it works and injustice begins at birth. I have no yearning to be validated by that institution (though I would welcome the financial rewards) - I just wanted to bring the point home so it might be better recognized.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2008 02:41 AM

I think that the next art fair should award blue ribbons to nationally notable art to help us in deciding which pieces to emulate. Art magazines are helpful but sometimes the pictures are too small to see what is going on. There is nothing like the real thing! We need to be exposed more to works of art that have the aura of "quality" validated with a high price tag. Our goal should be to eventually have a fair that includes works of art that cost over $500,000. To that end I think the organizers should seek the involvement of nationally renowned high-end western art galleries. This would also send a strong message to those art snobs in New York that we are up to something radically different out here! We don't need our chips to be blue, we can wrap them in rattlesnake skin!

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2008 09:49 AM

Enough with the NYC bashing/envy. Guaranteed that nobody in the big city is wasting their time bashing PDX, their busy making art, and money. And as far as blue ribbons, Well, too "art school champ". How about a contest for king and queen (non-gender specific), I am thinking Tonya Harding and Darnell. She seems to have staying power. Your guess which one I am talking about. Thanks beardfallacy for being so eloquent in expressing your view, I certainly can relate. Though I must say that many artists try and separate them selves from the financial side of things in hope that it gives them some sort of credibility. This ultimately, is self fulfilling prophecy, and all the power to them.

Posted by: bnoodle [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2008 05:49 PM

I hate to burst boodles bubble but there is a whole series of Portland jokes making the rounds in the big apple. It turns out that they are funnier than us too! A friend who lives in Chelsea told me a whole bunch but I can only remember two: "How many artists does it take to form an arts group in Portland?" answer "where's Portland?" and my favorite " Did you here about the artist from Portland who got into the Whitney Biennial" answer "What's the Whitney Biennial and where the fuck is Portland?" She said that the jokes are growing exponentially. I laughed so hard I almost peed on the couch I got at the bins! Of course it makes them seem a bit pathetic - they are really just insecure about all the buzz we are getting.

I do have a couple of good Ideas for funding the fair that will also help us to pretend that we don't care about money.

My first idea would bring in a whole new group of eco-friendly people who haven't been exposed to enough art. We could siphon off the electricity emanating from the more high-end pieces and use it to power spotlights around the city that shine on installations of unrecyclable garbage. Near the end of the show we could auction off the individual pieces of garbage after having them signed by local vetted artists. Aside from the money I think the interaction between the eco-folk and art people would explore deep themes of what community means. We need to educate them so they don't think that artists are just contributing the trash problem.

The second would be super fun. We could set up a booth at the fair with a sign that says "join the buzz!" and put out a tip jar that patrons could fill for the opportunity to shave shapes in the pubic hair of local strippers. We could get a bunch of artists together to make stencils so people won't feel intimidated. This would have to be planned way ahead for the erotic dancers to have time to grow out their bushes. And, yet again, we would be bringing a new community into the art making process.

We need to have the vision to reach out to all communities and let them know that they they can be artists too and,in fact,that they always have been.

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 03:19 AM

Yeah Yeah I get it - we are all pretentious assholes for caring enough about something to try to make serious points. I probably shouldn't be responding - it will just egg you on - but I guess I feel like arguing and I am always open to finding out if people have more to offer than the persona they project. I am old enough and familiar enough with your apparent type to not be threatened by any insult you might throw at me. I have generally found that the mask of contempt disguises a cowardly soul. It is a greater risk to try to communicate something that you feel is important and I invite you to at least let some small proof of genuine engagement. I'm sure this sounds like pontificating to you - take it however you want. If you can't contribute something of depth I won't respond again.

and, by the way, a little bit of wit is worth more than your prolix crassness.
You aren't as funny as you think you are.

Posted by: beardfallacy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 04:05 AM

Whatever you say professor genius. But before posting it I sent a copy to my friend Matthew Barney and he thought it was awesome. He said he hadn't laughed so hard since he saw the Blue Man Group getting beaten up by a gang of unrepresented graffiti artists. He got it and he has the most rigorous sense of humor of anyone I know. Even Bono sends him new material to critique before doing his stand-up routine in public.

I can't write much more - I feel myself choking up - I didn't think you would break up with me so soon. I will miss your life-changing insights. And right after I was kind enough to lie to you about the size of your cock! I guess I am a coward after all,

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 04:26 AM

Just a reminder to play nice and civil people... no need to trade insults.

That said jokes are good, a bit of tension is important. If Portland is just a nice city in the woods with two big rivers... that isnt enough.

Also, It's a beautiful day I suggest everyone get outside and talk a walk or go on a hike in The Gorge or Forest Park. I just finished a fun interview with Ranciere (Ill have it posted as soon as it is ready).

Portland will get the art event it deserves.... whatever that means (probably another good joke there).


Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 11:37 AM

Just who do I think You are? Give that!

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2008 04:48 AM

I was fingering down this thread and the sentence fragment "Cliff Notes of art collecting " popped out. It led me to imagine the publishers printing 'Cliff Notes' of novels so outside the cannon that even book scouts would scorn to purchase thrift store first editions for a single dollar. Students could cheat to understand works that no curriculum will ever assign. I am inclined to find pleasure in molesting the irrelevant but I believe, and prove me wrong, that this post is a comment of some import on everything anyone has ever said about art.

Posted by: Celine Gibbetteau [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2008 11:46 AM

My point is simply that art fairs lower the threshold for becoming an art collector. That isnt necessarilly good for the art world in general but Portland is young in many ways. Its a strength... we are developing a collecting culture that has grown up mostly in the last 20 years. While having a long standing tradition with a smaller more regional group as well. Besides, I think many collectors graduate from art fairs and get more involved with galleries afterwards. Also, Art fairs bring out the already educated collectors who have limited time on their hands.

As for irrelevant... I really doubt it... The affair was just a piece of a puzzle and a way to have a more diverese and fleshed out visual arts ecosystem here.

There is a continued expansion but its seems to be done a "Portland way" each time. Every "next time around" mistakes get adressed... We arent buildng on sand anymore either, we have built up precedents. It should be a particularly interesting year in Portland.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2008 12:03 PM

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