Art fairs today don't offer commercial experiences alone. To draw all kinds of people, and to be taken seriously by collectors connected to museums and curators, fairs provide cultural talks, displays, and events in addition to the rows of booths where the game is selling.
Seattle Art Fair—in its exciting inaugural year last summer—went above and beyond by offering, within CenturyLink Field Events Center, a standalone, full-scale, museum-quality exhibition of video art by 25 artists from all over the Pacific Rim. It was local—in a global way—and it was distinctive and terrific. (I'm still in mourning that it didn't travel, or show in Seattle, anywhere beyond that weekend.)
This second year, the fair, happening August 4 through 7, won't be presenting one large exhibition and several far-flung installations intended to drive people out into the city. Rather, it will produce a handful of small-to-medium installations within CenturyLink, a series of dance performances at Union Station and Occidental Square (in conjunction with Seattle's great contemporary dance center Velocity), neighborhood tours that are also pieces of performance art, and talks that host pointyheads and celebrities alike.
While I loved that the video exhibition last year, curated by Afghan-born Leeza Ahmady, broadened the perspective of the fair far beyond Western-based culture and commerce, the projects and talks didn't quite add up.
This year's lineup will make for a full, rich weekend of varied events that cross mediums including music and sound, architecture, TV and YouTube, and dance. It's not skimpy.
Plus, spoiler: Celebs are Carrie Brownstein, Kyle MacLachlan, Kim Gordon, and Speed Levitch (not all at once).
The double themes are technology and dance. Technology is not surprising, for a fair that was invented and is sponsored by the co-founder of Microsoft. Dance? I'll take it, whatever the reasons.
Adam McEwen made large-scale sculptural replicas of the the exterior of IBM's supercomputer out of graphite (graphite!).
The LA crew behind Public Fiction, a journal and art space that produces exhibitions, will present an installation of the early video art that was made for public access television. Contemporary works using new technologies and systems of distribution will show at the same time, especially those focused on citizen journalism, and "the artist as a witness." The title is A Witness and a Weapon, and it comes with a talk by Henry Art Gallery curator Emily Zimmerman (a piece of related work will also be at the Henry).
Roxy Paine's got a computer-modeled replica of a hotel room being surveilled. Wynne Greenwood, in an installation (critically? sorrowfully?) titled In Loving Memory, will place soft cushions printed with clip art that reminds her of her homes (Redmond, Olympia, and Seattle) out in Occidental Square.
One great bit of news is that Jeffry Mitchell will show a full small exhibition of an array of his works. I remember a few years ago in a review, a major critic in a huge publication basically wrote, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if somebody would take notice of Jeffry Mitchell?" (without noticing that she could be the one to do it). Mitchell deserves world domination. An international art fair is the right sized platform for him; I only hope collectors from around the world actually show up.
It's great to see a decent number of female artists, architects, and speakers in the mix—there are more. (Don't miss this Anne Ellegood/Brian Jungen talk; Ellegood is a great curator.) The lineup this year, rather than Pac-Rim-based, is heavily weighted toward LA, maybe in an attempt to get Angelenos to come north. The fair's Artistic Director, a newly created role, is independent writer/curator Laura Fried, who's based there.
There is nothing here that seems to overtly touch on pressing social issues the way last year's video exhibition did, from global warming and trade to race, forced migration, and women's rights. It's difficult to know what's really coming from mere descriptions.
Kyle MacLachlan and Carrie Brownstein will talk about "cultural investment and place-making in the Pacific Northwest." Get your Twin Peaks and Portlandia questions ready.
Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) will talk about her art, music, and language. I'm looking forward to this one.
The dance program looks extensive and exciting; it's curated by Tonya Lockyer. There's a durational performance by local and international dance artists working with Uruguayan-born, Brooklyn-based, Bessie Award-winning choreographer luciana achugar; we'll see new work by LA choreographer Flora Wiegmann titled Halo of Consciousness; and a performance by the Ohio State University-based acclaimed choreographer Bebe Miller and longtime collaborator Darrell Jones.
I'd definitely like to go on one of the local neighborhood tours by alien life form (in a good way) Timothy "Speed" Levitch. He's the famous/infamous onetime New York City tour guide, and he'll be leading tours in two dialects that have been created by an artist in LA named Glenn Kaino: Lunar French (LF) and Martian English (ME).