Art fairs are a magical conglomeration of creative forces from around the world, but booth after booth of artistic genius can be incredibly tiring. This year, SCOPE New York streamlined that experience—not because they had to downsize, but because they wanted to. The fair, which put on a new face, with a new logo and a new venue, paired down their roster of galleries, focusing instead on a less is more approach. With this, the fair also further explored their personal artistic vision, having a heavier hand on their curatorial input than ever before. Just sixty-two hand picked galleries exhibited this year, almost twenty less than last year, along with selected special projects and programming through the SCOPE Foundation. The 2012 fair, as expected, was more fresh and more innovative.
After a brief stint last year on the lower Westside of Manhattan, SCOPE moved back uptown. The new prime location on 57th Street and 12th Avenue was right across from the Armory Show, a move that let Armory stragglers venture between the two- attracting some that may not have ventured south to the satellite fairs in prior years. This was also helped by a poor intern who happily stood outside of the Armory Show with a SCOPE flag in hand, pointing visitors in the right direction. With this smaller, sleeker fair, SCOPE is able to put more focus on their non-profit, the SCOPE Foundation, which initiates projects with SCOPE-chosen artists.
The art started on the fair’s façade, with Robert Montgomery’s glowing “The City is Wilder Than You Think” welcoming both fair goers, and the West Side Highway traffic. SCOPE took advantage of its strategic location to further Montgomery’s message of replacing expected ad space with his neon glowing poetry, infusing art into unexpected places to commuters traveling out of the city.
Montgomery’s piece was not the only way SCOPE reached beyond the confines of the tent walls. Collaborating with Soho House, they curated two events for collectors and enthusiasts to further their art muscle. Invited guests were treated to a screening of Noah Becker’s “New York is Now”, which delves into the minds of this crazy New York scene. In the film, major artists, curators, dealers and auction houses speak their minds about the future of the art market, which has been drastically shifted in the last few years thanks to the internet and social media staking a claim in art sales, reputation and clout. Soho House also hosted a panel discussion with Becker, Jason Stopa from NY Arts, Anthony Haden Guest and Robert C. Morgan. Each chose an artist to discuss and then conducted an open forum between speakers and guests, asking them to chat and chew over the artists’ work, as well as the art market.
At the fair, the roster of special projects were also set to engage visitors, both physically and introspectively. Artist Kenton Parker’s “Infinity Trophy Room” confronted guests right as they entered and left the fair. Like a small scale of Versaille’s Hall of Mirrors, rows and rows of golden trophies lined the mirrored room inside and outside of Parker’s installation. Enticing both our senses of pride and vanity, guests were caught between looking at the symbols of champion- and checking out the reflection of themselves amidst all the glittering gold. With Infinity Trophy Room, Parker wanted us to feel the double edged sword of triumph- the guts and glory, but also the underside. The partners to one winner are a world of losers, creating an interplay between both victory and defeat. Playing on our insecurities, Parker intelligently captured his audience to sit and contemplate his piece, with its juxtaposition of getting a full-length view of themselves.
After the introspective confrontation of vanity and insecurity, guests absolved themselves at AMF Project’s booth, “The Diamond Den.” Lainie Love Dalby is an experience. An artist and Interfaith Minister Reverend, Dalby takes art therapy to a more physical sense, and invited fair guests to crawl into a bright pink ritualistic tent. Adorned with a cap of sparkly magic wands, Dalby helped visitors to let go of the pretension of the art world, and to simply experience and have fun. By submitting to her all encompassing performance, visitors not only connected with Dalby, but also enjoyed the unique feast for all the senses of Dalby’s world, which smells a lot like lavender and lemongrass. A three minute meditation/blessing by the artist left me surprisingly relaxed, almost as if I’d gotten in one of those good twenty minute power naps.
Participatory art can intimidate many, so those that are unable to let go of their inhibitions and participate with Dalby could focus on individual experience, with a serene installation by David Rosenbloom. Six oversized LCD screens fit together to show a montage of Tokyo at night from Mt. Fuji. When standing before the screens, the piece had the incredible ability to let visitors experience a calming Zen, amongst the hustle and bustle of the hectic art fair- much like Dalby’s blessings. Almost meditative and nature, Tokyo Bay gave visitors a moment to relax and cleanse their minds, especially after several hours of over-arting at the various fairs.
The galleries chosen this year were chosen for variety and innovation, and curatorial approach. Perhaps the most popular booth at the preview was Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery. The crowd grew and grew as visitors flocked to the performance by artist Katherine Nolan- mostly because she was walking around without any pants on. The guests gawked as Nolan removed her panties and stood au naturel, haughtily nailing them to the booth’s wall. Nolan performed as part of the gallery’s theme, “Lost in Lust: the Representation and Mis-representation of Woman,” a mini curatorial experience, rather than the all too common “group show style” booth.
In a time when the art market is in a transitional state of flux, SCOPE has pushed itself to not only challenge itself, but also challenge its visitors, by providing innovative experiences that can pull them out of their comfort zone. While some fairs have become a trade show for art, with cube after cube of “wares for sale,” SCOPE reminds us that art is not only visual, but experiential, and maybe even therapeutic.