Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art LA Contemporary

My first art fair as a participant brought about a few lessons on what to do, and what not to do. These lessons can be applied to anyone, whether hosting a party, or running a gallery, or doing any kind of dealing with the public.

1. Do not have a trash can. This might seem counter-intuitive, as you would think trash should be kept away from the clean and elegant environment you no doubt wish to preserve. I bought a lovely minimal perfect-sized white trash can to sit daintily (and discreetly) under my desk. However, as the VVIP opening went into the VIP opening and then to the general opening, I found that the more "V"s were in front of the "IP"s, the more crudely did people think it permissible to throw coffee cups (with coffee) glasses (with bright red-colored alcohol) and food into my lovely unsoiled can, which by the way was inches away from my legs, so it felt particularly invasive and insulting. Some people spied the can from the hall and threw it from afar. I kid not.

Left: stuff...

2. The less stuff the better. I love information, and like to provide it so that people don't have to ask but can look for themselves. Not so at an art fair. Less is more I realized. Put everything in one notebook, and then sit back and relax. Or rather...

3. Sitting is the devil. My back each morning was more and more agonized- perhaps it was all the LA driving, but most likely it was the awful chairs that I sat in for hours. By day 3 I realized that the intermittent shuffling and fake IPhone-scrolling of the dealer opposite me was actually a back-saving strategy. While constantly standing and pacing outside the perimeter of his booth, he somehow managed to not look like a caffeinated tchotchke-seller at the suk, but a chillaxed dude, who just happened to be the dude you would contact at the booth.

Right: Angelina Gualdoni corner of booth, with uncomfy devil chair.

4. People expect Art 101 and want to "chat". I had a woman come back twice to have me explain "how long should I hold onto an artwork before I sell it?" Another man asked me about how value is defined in art and wanted a full debate. A grumpy old man attacked with "Is this the state of the art world today? If so, then my four-year-old could do a lot better." I was expected to debate the meaning of art, explain the point of art fairs, defend the ethics of dealers, and nutshell the art-as-investment theory, all on a busy Saturday. I have encountered this in triplicate at the gallery of course, but having 100 square feet makes one feel beleaguered. Hence, the beauty of the dealer pacing outside the booth.

5. Save the best outfit for de-installation
. I had brought a variety of comfortable and unremarkable outfits to wear, which all proved wrong as the temperature at the unheated airplane hangar plummeted at about 3pm each day, so that some dealers were seen wearing furs and scarves (and coats!) all day. By de-install, I had switched into jeans, while a prominent French dealer was seen attacking a 6 foot crate with a massive screw-gun while in a tight dress and 4-inch stilettos (so very French). As half the lights in the booths were off, another dealer, with long hair and a tall lanky build, stood still holding a large framed piece. A spotlight shined on his immaculate fuschia suede shoe, making it leap from the quiet darkness: one of the more aestheticized moments of the entire fair.

Overall, a great experience!