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Art Fair Week Semi-Rundown

The nice thing about a press pass is that one gets to visit shows before the masses converge: it's easy to get spoiled. Especially during art fair week in New York. It starts off low key: me, the Mayor, about one hundred of my closest press friends and lots of antsy, nervous art dealers -- show time! According to Mayor Bloomberg, this past week's art fairs will bring in over $40 million in economic activity: the city is pleased. With those numbers maybe we should consider art education on par with math and science -- just a thought.

Armory is part spectacle, part big shopping spree. With 274 galleries it's a mall full of art for collectors. This is not the place for quiet contemplation before a purchase. On opening day everyone is on a first-name basis. I overheard several times, "that's a bit low, I'd consider if you're making a serious offer", or "I just sold that." That's not to say this is all a bad thing: galleries often dust off some really nice gems from their back rooms and display them for sale. At Armory many booths have at least one big Alex Katz portrait, an Alice Neel, de Kooning, and after last summer's retrospective at the Whitney, lots of Charles Burchfield watercolors.

The business of art reminds me of car dealers and their predecessors, the horse traders. Relationships are important, as is which collection the work could move to. Pricing is also a slippery slope: what was valued before the recession may be adjusted, but not always. A small Chantal Joffee painting, maybe 10x15", apparently went for $75,000, and a John Marin from his Weehawken Sequence in the 20's -- that's a deal.

An hour into the show and the piers were packed with artists and celebs of all shapes. It's fun for a while, when it becomes more scene than art: time for this one to move on.

My next stop was to be the Scope Art Fair, but it was so windy walking down 11th Avenue that I moved over to 10th, and karma brought me into Exit Art's big open galleries. It was a breath of fresh air to walk into Exit Art after the intensity of the Armory Show. The staff is actually very pleased to see you as you walk through the door -- wha? The cavernous space is perfect for the current exhibit of large paintings, an eight-artist show titled Geometric Days.

If only geometry were taught to me in a visual way, I could have been an Einstein by now. Geometry is not just lines and grids on a page, but a complex recipe that can bring order to our chaotic view of the world. It's all about relationships, isn't it? And how that space between, the give and take, becomes so important, and some very good painting helps the process. Exit has fabulous ongoing programing: check their site for more details; I will be back soon.

Scope Art Fair is a scruffy show, especially on opening night. It's mostly younger artists and in some cases, established galleries wondering if they made a mistake. The energy is raw as is much of the art -- a plate of raw meat, anyone? On opening night many were quite buzzed by the time I arrived, but it's fun and well worth a visit.

Pulse Art Fair's sixty-three exhibitors have a new home at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th St. In their new venue the booth layouts and lighting make it an easy stroll -- we could do without the actual strollers though, really? As I noticed at Armory and even Scope, lots of painting, which is good for me, and more photography than in past years, which is another good thing.

The mega Internet art experience, Saatchi Online has a booth here. They choose a few artists from the hundred thousand plus in their data base, including yours truly, to show in the booth. Always pleasant to talk to, I was curious to know what kind of servers they used to carry so much content. Turns out they are riding the cloud wave. Owning and maintaining your own servers is nearly a thing of the past. Most server needs, both mega and mini, will be housed on rented server space, in Saatchi's case somewhere in Seattle. Open source clouding will be a serious debate going forward: stay tuned.

Of the many other fairs going on this past week, I wish I could have made it to Ed Winkleman's Moving Image, an exhibit of contemporary video art. I heard very good comments, but my time was limited. Ed's gallery is always a must stop for me, so I hope Moving Image returns next year. As always, more art fair images on my Flickr account, and Hrag Vartanian and company have done a very thorough and entertaining job covering everything over at Hyperallergic.

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