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Bring on the Fairs!

So much art to see, my eyeballs hurt. The New York art fairs opened and the hardcore collectors are all over it: alcohol consumption just doubled in NYC. I lost count of the total number of fairs this year -- ten, I think, on the piers, hotel rooms, office buildings, and containers on the street in Chelsea. Because of their amazing success as an efficient way selling art, fairs have grown in size and number. Many galleries make most of their income for the year, living a gypsy life, setting up four or five fairs in London, Basel, Miami, or here in NYC.

The jewel of the New York fairs is the Armory Show on Pier 94, with 160 galleries showing more than 2,000 artists. Last year's sales here were in excess of $85 million, with many of the sales in the first day/hour. No matter your point of view, that’s quite impressive. But, with the economy on everyone’s mind there is much anticipation this year.

Well, not to worry, a little price adjustment wouldn’t be so bad. There were no show-stopping, bizarre installations. Katie Grinnan's exploding cheerleaders in ATM's booth were probably the most adventurous; let's take one for the team! Galleries tended to played it safe: lots of paintings, many small works. I was happily floating from booth to booth noticing a few good paintings, like the three by Tom Nozkowski at Pace Wildenstein; a celebrity sighting here, an art star there; or the large Daniel Richter painting at that Berlin gallery (pictured); or better yet, the Herman Bas at Lehman Maupin.

If you're playing it safe, with gold over $1,000 an ounce, try a John Miller construction covered in gold leaf -- sorry, it sold in the first hour. A British Turner Prize winner famous for his cross dressing, Grayson Perry, had $30-90,000 ceramics that were selling well at Victoria Miro.

I enjoyed the Armory Show. The crowd was enthused, many of the European galleries had work I rarely get to see, and it's fun to eavesdrop on conversations -- is that my price? What if I get three? There's nothing quite like it.

A short trip down the Westside Highway to the Pulse Fair on Pier 40 (which happens to have a very cool parks and rec athletic field in the center). Pulse, in its third year, has grown to 90 established and newer galleries. It is a bit more laid back, a place where you're able to talk more freely with dealers and artists.

Two stand-outs were the booths for the British gallery with the coolest name, Pippy Houldsworth, with nice graphic drawings by Julie Nord, and the Dublin gallery Rubicon, showing Nick Miller's impastoed landscape paintings (he paints in a mobile van on location, and his canvases may seem off square but he also paints in the frame of the truck), and in Maud Cotter's over-sized furniture, ordinary objects take on grand significance.

Martin McMurray's simple paintings of typewriters at Jeff Bailey had me nostalgic for a bit, until I remembered how often I need spell check: he's also got a show up at now, the gallery in Chelsea.

Saatchi Online, an offshoot of the Saatchi Gallery of London is a free online Web space for artists to show and sell their work at no charge. It's an amazing venture for which I was one of the original 1.000 or so contributors. The project has expanded in several areas and now has over 80,000 members. They're at Pulse to give a little more credibility to the online venue.

In addition to Andy Yoder's giant licorice shoes -- yes, licorice and matching pipe -- Winkleman Gallery has a very interesting, often funny set of letters from corporations in response to artist Yevgeniy Fiks's attempt to "donate" a copy of Lenin's Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, to their corporate libraries. Of the 100 books sent he got 30 responses, from J.C. Penney, Target, Amazon, and others. Most companies didn't know what to do with the donation but always responded kindly; the response from Disney was the most detailed.

Also of note at Pulse was Federico Solmi's video The Evil Empire, a year-long project composed of over 1,000 small paintings, with each image getting eight seconds of screen time. Although at times hilarious, it's not a flattering portrait of the Pope and was banned from an exhibit in Rome.

As always great things to see at San Francisco's Catherine Clark Gallery, and welcome back from hiatus, DCKT Gallery, whose new Lower-Eastside space I haven't visited yet.

Whew, the final stop was across town at Red Dot, at the Park South Hotel. This fair has 38 galleries or private dealers occupying rooms in the hotel in very creative ways, some not so. The best part is, you're in NYC, this fair gets a good crowd, make the best of it.

Of note at Red Dot are Julian Hatton's paintings at Elizabeth Harris and also William Carroll's silhouette scenes of NYC. Baltimore's Gallery Imperato took a first plunge into the art fair pool: the room looked great, with Cara Ober's paintings and Gwyneth Scally's oil on gesso creations. Philadelphia's Projects Gallery had Alex Queral's acrylic on carved phone book -- see, there's still a reason for them. GV ART of London had a gorgeous small painting by Vicki Clark.

I've only covered a few standouts at the fairs and I only went to three of the nine. It would be a Herculean effort to see it all in one weekend, but you can visit my Flickr site for more pictures and descriptions. Here is a two-part James Kalm video of the Armory an Pulse and Vernissage TV with John Waters. I'll link to articles and other images as they get posted online.

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