Armory Week 2009 Review: Scope Art Fair

Scope Art Fair 2009
Art Fair review
written by Nikki Schiro in New York
There is a bit of pleasure aroused when the little nerd-girl inside is approached by a mean-girl who is suddenly in desperate need for a friend… the same mean-girl that last year had overlooked or shunned me because she'd asserted I wasn't worth her time. That pleasure lasts about a split second before a wave of distressing confusion washes over me, and then a sad moment of realization. Friendly dealers were not the only unsettling indicator that things have changed. I actually saw red dot "sold" stickers (when was the last time I saw those?). There was a noticeable abundance of sexually orientated work, mostly photography and some painting, that wasn't critical enough to warrant being glorified as contemporary art; clearly there for a sale. The work in general was less edgey, smaller, and relatively more affordable than before. Some gallerists overemphasized, in their pitch, that an artist "is selling", while others asked me point blank off the record "how is the fair? Are people selling?" There was a whole lot of bluffing and buffing going on, a lot of effort to create a sense that the art market is prevailing. Oh, how I wish that were true in a terrible way—and I don't blame them for trying, for what is the alternative?
Overall, however, the fair hadn't changed as drastically as I'd imagined it could. I will say, overall, the art itself was stronger last year.
Trends from Fair
Some trends were 3d paintings, figurative-abstraction, and sex.
Of the sexy art, some was interesting, fun and or clever, as opposed to its soft porn counterparts. I liked Chinese artist Liu Yan, at Eli Klein's Booth. Two large works on Xuan and old Chinese book paper, one of which titled The Man World, were interesting to me. Immediately I thought about an artist I went to school with, Tom Sanford, who kind of did something similar, implanting pop culture icons into medieval type compositions. I wondered if Yan's work seemed fresh merely because I am a westerner and less familiar with the formal aspects of older Chinese art. Urban Grünfelder's sculptures and paintings were fun, and some of the art at Jonathan Shorr Gallery was entertaining. Three little paintings detailing a woman being aggressed by men could seem offensive, but to me, I thought they were powerful, sexy, in fact.  
I saw a lot of figurative-abstraction attempts. Sculptural images obstructed dog-like animals, popped up in more than one place.
There were also lots of paintings that attempted to do this. Among the most successful, I found the portraits of Karim Hamid, at dFaulken gallery, to be great. He creates an interesting space in his paintings, and his mixing of abstraction with just enough representation generates specific portraits of themes and individuals, such as what seemed to be a "girls one wild" series and, a painting of Chuck Close, which I liked very much.
An artist called Evol, at Wilde Gallery, made outstanding paintings of buildings using a realistic painting technique on cardboard or tile/architectural piece. These pieces were terrific. The material that he had painted on, combined with the illusionism, really gave the effect of a building surface.
Jang Seunghyo, at Gallery Sun Contemporary had these wild, 3d photo compilations, he uses thousands of his own photos to create them. I have a photo of the figurative piece, but the more abstract work is even stronger. I am excited to see where his work will go.
David B Smith Gallery featured artist Gregory Euclide, whose multi media plexi pieces were truly one of the most unique things I saw there.
I mentioned earlier that prices seemed to be relatively more affordable. One gallery had actually posted a sign (photo in download box), detailing the deflation of Chinese art and this "unique, rare buying opportunity" in large red letters, addressed to collectors. Over at The Shooting Gallery, however, there was a piece by Erik Foss, cardboard and condom compilation of the American flag. The cardboard was an amalgam of homeless beggar signs, the condoms made the stars (photos on the right, in the" downloads" box). I thought the piece was interesting, but almost fell over when I saw it was priced at $20,000.
Worth checking out:
Ryan Wolfe's Branching Systems; Juan Francisco Casas's beautifully rendered pen drawings at Galeria Fernando Pradilla; Yuliya Lamina, at Dam, Stuhltrager & Frants Gallery; The Creative Thrift Shop, Brooklyn, had a fun spoof on American Apparel ads, Carolyn Salas and Adam Parker Smith's collaborative piece at the entry of Lila Freedland booth. Freedland's booth was a great element to the fair; there was a funhouse quality to the whole thing. In the main room, there was a projected light/image performance piece that seemed to be conducting a group of live musicians stationed below it, as if in a pit. In that room were walls full of prints and small works, featuring two from artist Emily Noelle Lambert. The room was very crowded and dim. I'd like to go back and have a second look at the wall work.
One would think such deteriorating economic conditions would have had more of a profound effect on the fairs. To an unsuspecting eye, one might think things aren't nearly as bad as statistics say. Perhaps this is the best sales strategy.


Admin said…
Thank you for noting Ryan Wolfe and Yuliya Lanina. They make me very proud. Much appreciation for your coverage of Scope.

Leah Stuhltrager
Dam, Stuhltrager