Inside CenturyLink Field Event Center this minute, crews are scurrying around putting up walls, hanging lighting, and painting everything white. Everything has to be perfect: The art arrives Wednesday to this warren of 61 show booths plus a full-on exhibition of new video work from the Pacific Rim plus lounges and VIP areas and mini-auditoriums for speakers and panels. Starting Thursday night, galleries from around the world will be showing at the inaugural Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Field, the 70,000-square-foot mini-world sponsored by billionaire collector/Microsoft cofounder/Seahawks owner Paul Allen.
"This is the beginning of something that could become the Art Basel Miami for the West Coast," Max Fishko told me last week, feeling "really, really confident" in the days leading up to the fair. Fishko is the fair's director and head of Art Market, the Brooklyn-based company administering Seattle Art Fair in partnership with Allen's company, Vulcan, Inc.
He said he's expecting 10,000 to 15,000 comers—anyone can attend, buyer or not—but "we could blow that number out of the water if we really play our cards right. I’m getting requests for VIP accommodations from major-league consultants from New York, Dallas, LA. I think we’ll get a push of people that are coming from outside of the city. I think we may have underestimated what we were going to get. There’s just something in the air."
Should you go? Yes, absolutely. But pay attention to the satellite events, too.
Inside the fair at the stadium, 13 Seattle galleries will stack up against 21 galleries from New York, five from LA, four from Portland, five from the Bay Area, two from Tokyo, two from Miami, two from Vancouver, BC, and one each from Seoul, Hong Kong, New Orleans, Boston, Albuquerque, and Sun Valley.
Right next door to CenturyLink Field, at King Street Station, an exhibition of 100 local artists is meant to be an alternative to what's at the fair, spotlighting mostly artists who don't have gallery representation and therefore won't be included in the fair itself. That show is called Out of Sight (Facebook, Instagram, tickets).
A few notes. I'm getting excited. I'm also getting a little nervous. The stakes aren't that high—here, I detailed the best-case and worst-case scenarios—but the flurry of activity alone is enough to make my feet need to move very, very fast in the coming days. I'm still assembling my own schedule, and if you're trying to do the same, I have a few recommendations and requests.
1. Don't miss Out of Sight. It's not at the stadium, it's next door at King Street Station. It costs $10 to get in, and it includes many, many artists who live in and around Seattle. It also gives you a chance to see, for the first time it's ever been open to the public, the beautiful, beautiful, raw third floor of the renovated King Street Station—the building with the 12-story clock tower just south of downtown. Check it out. Much of the work is brand-new.
2. Don't miss Thinking Currents, a large exhibition of video works by artists from all across the Pacific Rim. This exhibition is noncommercial, meaning that it's in the fair but not entirely of the fair. I'll be posting an interview with Thinking Currents curator Leeza Ahmady soon to Slog.
3. There is no law against bad art in NY, LA, SF, Seoul, or Tokyo. Don't be fooled by the signs, just look at the art and find what you think is meaningful.
4. Okay, okay, but I have to narrow it down. All right. I'm looking forward to seeing what's at the big New York booths (Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace), the Portlanders Elizabeth Leach, PDX Contemporary, and Upfor, and many Seattle spots (G. Gibson, James Harris, Greg Kucera, SEASON, Platform). The wild card is that you never know what a gallery will bring to a fair.
5. Satellite events and shows are often the best part of any fair. Jenny Heishman has an installation at Myrtle Edwards Park, which is also where the classic Michael Heizer sculpture—one of the best and least-looked-at works of public art in Seattle—is located. Julie Alpert is showing at Mad Art. Addie Wagenknecht will be creating paintings by drone. Spencer Finch offers ice cream the color of sunsets (really).
6. Satellite Seattle is a new website devoted to trying to give you everything you need to know, in one place. It's a great idea. At the top of the Highlights page right now is the Art of the City Street Fest, which is a whole, daylong thing at the TK Building in Pioneer Square on Saturday.
7. Three talks look interesting, though all three really don't include any art or artists from Seattle, as far as I know, and really should, since they're about the "here and now," as one is literally titled. They are: "Here and Now: Postcolonial Stories from the Northwest" with Catharina Manchanda of Seattle Art Museum and indigenous artists Wendy Red Star, Raymond Boisjoly, and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas on Friday afternoon (where are the Salish artists? Or any indigenous artists living in and around Seattle today?); artist Natalie Jeremijenko on Saturday talks about the "Great Participatory Pollinator Project" — Jeremijenko is a good artist indeed, but doesn't her subject sound a little like what Sarah Bergmann has been doing for years right here in this city?; and a panel discussion Saturday on the Pacific Rim video exhibition Thinking Currents, which, again, Pacific Rim=Seattle, too.
8. The Living Computer Museum, Paul Allen's nerdy-neato outpost in Sodo, is even hosting an art exhibition. It's called A Singularity.
I'm sure I'm missing things. I'll be posting all week and on Facebook and Twitter (@jengraves), too.