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Monday, March 13, 2006

Seen and Scene at Scope

Let me start by saying this: I trust Barry and James. So when both of them posted on Friday (here and here) about how much they enjoyed Scope, I changed my Saturday plans and opened up the full day to spend there. I’m glad I did.

Overall, the work on display was about what I expected from galleries exhibiting at the fair—lots of small figurative work on paper, with a good smattering of edgy stuff thrown in. (The subject matter of most work at Scope in six words: breasts and blood, striptease and sex.)

But the fair organizers did an admirable job of creating a strong buzz of excitement about the fair that turned it from a mere marketplace into an event. Not all (not any?) of the non-gallery, non-New Museum programming actually stood on its own as interesting installation or performance, but that didn’t really matter. The energy dissipated throughout the space by so much non-sales activity was infectious. I imagine that Scope, as a fair this year, had the same ludic energy that the great medieval religious festivals had. (And, no, I’m not going to explain that reference any further.) It’s an energy that Pulse didn’t have and that the Armory Show never has had.

When I go to art fairs, I don’t really go to buy. That’s not to say that I haven’t ever bought at a fair, but it’s not my primary objective. Collectors who swoop in before the shows open to the public to binge purchase, dropping thousands upon thousands of dollars in the art world version of the bacchanal, make my stomach turn. (Doing it is bad enough, but there has to be a special place in purgatory for those who do it and then publish a detailed account of their activity.) I use fairs to find new artists and new galleries that I’m interested in following.

In that respect, this year’s Scope was the best yet—especially with its stronger international representation. I was introduced to three European galleries featuring interesting work (some of which was new to me), and I saw a few things at galleries closer to home that piqued my interest.

Details to follow.

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