The visit was a much different context than the last time I was in Seattle, which has me reflecting a lot. Today I painted one of the steep picturesque Seattle streets. I haven’t painted a Seattle cityscape since 2013. That “Post Alley” painting sold in 2015 from the MinBids Gallery in Edmonton. It has been awhile Seattle…
I wanted to road-trip down to Seattle for the Seattle Art Fair. Earlier this spring I read the book Management of Art Galleries by Magnus Resch. So in particular, I wanted to visit a fair with international presence with my new insights I gained from the book.
Here are some of my thoughts of this weekend’s fair:
The show is focused on contemporary art. Most pieces had an immediate message to it or shock value. I’ve heard my work described as approachable & easy to digest (because it is representational)… there are pro’s and con’s to this. I found work here less approachable than I expected. Seeing it all at once makes it challenging to appreciate all the individual messages.
Materials & Innovation
As I have been pitching and talking about my ideas in automation, materials and engineering applied to art these days, I had expected to see more innovation at the fair. I had hoped to see art that made face-palm and think I could’ve thought of that or make me intimidated that my current ideas cannot compete… but I found a focus on traditional materials and spaces. One of my favorite sculptures was a giant stone boulder that can be installed in a wall (shown in the images about), it was exactly the opposite demonstrating old technology of including stone in a new space. My ideas in automation or materials were not explored in any iterations – which gives me fuel to keep working on them.
Vancouver Art Scene
Late last year I took a course with Pennylane Shen of Dazed and Confucius. As part of the class, she took us on a tour of Vancouver Contemporary galleries to appreciate the Vancouver Art scene. While wandering the booths in Seattle, on several occasions I recognized work – I had either seen before or I knew of an artist in Vancouver who does similar work… I immediately realize the booth was a Vancouver gallery! So as it turns out, Pennylane’s teaching was valuable in getting to know the current Vancouver art scene.
Networking at the Fair
I have worked as Research Manager in product development and Marketing Director in events management, I have attended conferences and expos all over the world, including a bike expo in Shanghai, composites conference in Paris and a 3D-printing expo in Pittsburgh. The goal of the events is to network – as it is always best to communicate with people in person. However the nature of the art world is so much different than tech conferences or customer expos. I will always find it interesting how unapproachable galleries are. It surprised me that not one booth chatted up the people coming through the booths. They don’t ask where people are from, or to inquire if visitors are art enthusiasts, collectors, one-time buyers, artists, etc. In contrast, I think open studio events like the North Shore Art Crawl or East Van Cultural Crawl in Vancouver result in better relationship building as the artist actually communicates with the guests. Perhaps why I am meeting more and more artists who sell their own work rather than working with galleries – a similar conclusion coming from Resch’s book on the business of Galleries.
I am curious of what you thought of this fair, or other international art fairs? How do you compare gallery events to artist studio events? Was there work that inspired you that I may have missed?