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14 October 2015 KETCHUP DROOL
Habib Asal
Space for an Artwork, 2010
text on wall ,variable dimensions

Like Borges’ library, a typical art AIR consists of a number of nearly-identical rooms containing (seemingly) unlimited reconfigurations of possible forms, marks, lines, and pixels. Rather than Borges’ hexagons, the booths of an art fair are usually square, delineated by three walls opening on to a hallway.

This is because the repeated rows of cubicle-like walls serve as metonymy for the white cube of a gallery, the dominant exhibition space of art since modernity. In turn, the white cube is a stand-in for an ideal of empty space not far removed from the film trope of a white “void” as a representation of death or some “other” realm. In the repetition of this double-removed and imaginary referent, the art fair seems to attain towards the infinite.

Nanda Vigo
Exoteric Gate,  Galleria del Falconiere, 1978
Courtesy Archivio Nanda Vigo
Jury of the Salon, Paris, 1903

In parallel to the explosion of biennials, the period since the 1980s also witnessed a hardly less impressive increase in art fairs across the world. The concurrence of the rapid growth of these two forms of exhibiting contemporary art, as well as the close similarities between them, led many art critics to maintain that it was becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other. Indeed, the Art Fairs International website went as far as to claim that biennials are the new art fairs, and art fairs are the new biennials.

Rosalind Krauss
Sculpture in the Expanded Field
October, Vol. 8. (Spring, 1979)
full text in pdf

Elena Filipovic
The Global White Cube, Issue 22 (April, 2014)
full text in pdf

Marc Auge
Non-Places: Introduction to
an Anthropology of Supermodernity, 1992

full text in pdf

Dear Jerry,

I saw you around the art fairs two weeks ago. What are your thoughts about art fairs? Thank you.

— Tuckered Out


Dear Tuckered,

I used to be a real hard-ass about art fairs. In 2006, when I was still at the Village Voice, I wrote a column titled “Feeding Frenzy,” in which I called them “adrenaline-addled spectacles. . . perfect storms of money, marketability, and instant gratification. . . tent-city casinos.” They still drive me crazy and wear me out, but now I see them for what they’ve always been: Big sleepover parties where people sniff each other’s scents and make connections in a hurry. Artists get a chance to make a little money, and critics — almost by accident — get to see galleries we might not otherwise have the chance to visit. So I’ve corked my blowhole.

If Margaret Thatcher and Andy Warhol were miraculously to conceive a child, the offspring would be an art fair – art as commodity, artist as worker, profit the driver and capitalist the dealer.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. As one international photographer commented to me: “art fairs are a necessity.” They offer artists exposure and an income stream, a slice of the financial pie – and it’s a big pie. According to Bloomberg, $350m worth of artworks were on sale at Frieze 2011.

Ketchup Drool: An Alphabetical Countdown to Artissima 2015
Ketchup Drool: Un conto alla rovescia alfabetico ad Artissima 2015
by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti

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