I got a funny text message last night from an artist in Seattle: "Have you noticed that the curators in town have been acting more than a little crazy since this art fair has fired up? I think all the money is making them feel like they can say whatever they want to artists and get away with extra bullshit. There is something in the air! Keep your reporter ears perked up!"
Just a few hours later came Brian Boucher's great story on Artnet today, headlined "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" I wish I'd written it. The gallery reps themselves don't really say much, but Boucher reminds us that the Seattle Art Fair that's happening later this month was Paul Allen's idea (and Vulcan is a sponsor), and Allen is friends with Larry Gagosian, and, well, he's Paul Allen.
"That's the power of name-dropping, and Paul Allen is a good name to drop," Seattle dealer Greg Kucera told me today. Kucera is on the selection committee for the fair (full list of participants here), and Kucera pointed out that answering the question of why is essentially a matter of deduction. Have these big galleries done fairs in Seattle before? No. Have these big galleries done fairs in other cities by the organizer of this fair? What else can you extrapolate except that it's All About Allen?
Well, there are some other possibilities. One is more zeitgeisty and vague, but interesting. In this past weekend's New York Times, critic Holland Cotter wrote that regional art just feels fresher right now than the more cookie-cutter art in the market strongholds of NY and LA. The "market is, at present, an unmovable force," Cotter writes. "You can capitulate to it and follow its bidding; or you can bang your head against it in ultimately useless protest; or we can turn our attention in other directions and focus on where the market isn’t looking, which is in many, many directions."
So at the end of this month, will the market turn its head toward where the market isn't looking, meaning Seattle?
Or is the missing local market going to be a disappointment to the bigs in their lonely booths?
Worst-case scenario: The bigs in their booths get burned because Seattle has no collector base, and their presence doesn't make one materialize, from either those unicorny tech-money locals or out-of-towners.
But if Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner leave Seattle thinking Seattle is not a place to sell art, well, that's what they thought before visions of Paul Allens danced in their heads, anyway.
That's not so bad!
Best-case scenario: If enough money changes hands, this fair could happen again, and the extent to which that's good depends on how much money and love lives on in Seattle after the fact.
What we want is more people looking at art, more people talking about art, and more people buying art so that more people will make art here—all so that more of the art that's made here is better all the time. Does that convolution make sense?
You can go crazy on this future-trip to the point where Seattle being more of a market creates the market-bound conditions here that Cotter says make the art of NY and LA less interesting.
But I think we've got plenty of room for growth before Seattle is in any danger whatsoever of being, you know, New York.
So may this fair fare well in the best way. Toward that end, check out your local galleries and alternative spaces as well as the booths during the fair. The standout show for that will be Greg Lundgren's Out of Sight, a huge group survey inside the spectacular King Street Station, right near the fair itself, which is happening in the complex where the Seahawks play. Gagosian is absolutely Beast Mode.