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The Affordable Art Fair’s press preview and opening party on Wednesday was a clusterfuck par none. You’d think there were hundreds of eager collectors chomping at the bit to enter a race to obtain star works early, before the riffraff arrived to pick through the rejections. But this is not Art Basel. The Affordable Art Fair is always a mix of the good, the bad, and the lovely, but competitive shopping it is not.
This year proved no exception, with its predictable mix of big names and upstarts arranged in a manner so fortuitous, so cah-rayzee random that one could find a ridiculously cutesy paper dress like the darling confections by Mariko Ishikawa at Onishi Project’s booth and then turn around to see a well-composed postmodern piece like this one by Decorazon’s Ruben Nieto.
So it couldn’t be that the bumping and pointing, stopping and starting hoards were all there to snatch up desirable works of blue chip art — and they were certainly not there for the pink, sticky lemonade, Titos, and champagne drinks in plastic flutes with fall-offy bottoms. So, what? What could it be that made the Metropolitan Pavillion into a crawling, buzzing, boiling pit of coats and bags and press passes?
Seriously. You think I have an answer?
Maybe it’s because they have a great package for attracting the masses: a website with a slide show, visitor info, photos of last year’s highlights, a blog, and events to keep the kids busy, all while upholding their promise of “A fun four-day event hosting over 80 galleries and a huge array of contemporary art.” Not two words you really expect to see together: “fun” and” contemporary art.” But hey, we are entering a brave new world where home decor, T-shirts, mass production, and old-fashioned formalism can be mixed and matched without (much) shame. So the Affordable Art Fair is bound to become increasingly popular.
When you are there, you can buy a Damien Hirst spot or two for a few thousand. These are what the retail stores like to call “items,” affordable pieces that even a mud rat like you can go home with as evidence that you shopped at a high-end store. But the cool thing about the AAF is that you can also look unabashedly for the red “Art Under $1000” tags, so instead of running to the packaging station with mere souvenir snippets from Damien Hirst’s rag bag, you can have them wrap one of Nina Jun’s swell enamel balloon wall sculptures for the kids’ room.
I think the AAF does well because it has a good thing going on: a balls-out eyeball pleasure party. There’s always been a fine line between home decor and fine art, between kitsch and irony. The auction houses have long been aware that wall power sells, that over and above concept and form, their buyers want branding, color, rarity, and charm. We want our Basquiats red and with crowns; we want the darling garish Picasso of a recognizable girlfriend. We want the bigger works, and we like Jeff Koons because he makes pretty stuff. Let the galleries and museums, art critics and academics keep rolling their eyes, pretending to be interested only in concepts and important ideas (or worse, pure formalism). The rest of us can shop at AAF.
View work by over 40 experimental artists and collectives from throughout the Americas who contributed to New York’s art scene during the 1960s and ’70s.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
N.O. Bonzo’s illustrations, murals, and literature build on radical art traditions, addressing relations of labor and identity in local communities and protest movements.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
For Calderón Ruiz’s first exhibition, artists Esteban Ramón Pérez and Jaime Muñoz plumb the depths of Chicanx identity.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.