The Seattle Art Fair is back and bigger than before, boasting over eighty galleries that are poised to please audiences and attract collectors both seasoned and new. The fair features a strong selection of local, regional and international galleries showcasing emerging, mid-career, and established artists. However, with so many options and so much to see, especially given all the other events and exhibitions happening across the city, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. While there are many great works and galleries to see over the next four days, here are five galleries you should make sure not to miss at the 2016 Seattle Art Fair.
Sapar Contemporary (Booth E1)
One of the greatest strengths of the Seattle Art fair is that it brings a diverse range of artworks from around the globe to Seattle that can be experienced in person. This is the case with the recently-formed New York-based Sapar Contemporary, who are making their Seattle Art Fair debut this year with a stellar roster of international artists, including Faig Ahmed, Eric Bourret, Rachel Sussman, Mehmet Ali Uysal and Shinji Turner-Yamamoto. Faig Ahmed is arguably the most well-known of the group, famous for his stunning re-interpretations and deconstructions of ancient carpet designs from his native Azerbaijan (pictured above).
Rachel Sussman’s The Oldest Living Things in the World also brings the ancient into the present. The photographic series documents continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old or older. Described by Sussman as “part art and part science” and “an existential incursion into Deep Time”, the photographs are excellent entry points for new collectors, especially those interested in the environment.
Finally, Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal’s flaccid frames from his Suspended series are objects that have lost their original function. Sagging and subversive, they “become deformed specimens hung on the wall for appraisal like hunting trophies,” according to the gallery’s website. It’s an apt metaphor in the context of an art fair where artworks are often fetishized and collected for their market value rather than for their artistic merit or conceptual depth.
Claire Oliver Gallery (Booth E13)
A few stalls away, Claire Oliver, another New York gallery, is mounting a two-person exhibition titled Theories of the Earth, showcasing work by Beth Lipman and Lauren Fensterstock. Lipman’s hand-sculpted glass compositions are extraordinary collisions of craft and concept. For the fair, Claire Oliver will be presenting Lipman’s Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads, a fifteen-foot table that juxtaposes the splendor and excesses of the Anthropocene; discarded books, chalices, food and a viola among others items, with ancient botany that evokes the endurance of nature across vast geological time scales.
The bounty and disorder that proliferates Lipman’s work complements a similar tension in Fensterstock’s The Order of Things, a mixed media triptych that reveals humanity’s contradictory relationship with the natural world. The decision to present Lipman and Fensterstock together is a smart one, given the strong conceptual and material bonds shared by the artists. As a result, the pairing is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors long after they leave the fair.
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (Booth C10)
Another booth guaranteed to leave a strong impression is Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. An art fair veteran and one of the top art dealers in Seattle, Mariane Ibrahim is taking a less conventional approach this year by dedicating her entire booth to an immersive installation by West-African and Parisian-based artist Clay Apenouvon. Entitled Film Noir de Lampedusa, the gallery stall will be consumed in black plastic film that envelopes the walls, floors, tables and various objects. Inspired by radio reports of African immigrants shipwrecked off the Coast of Lampedusa Island in Italy, Apenouvon’s installation evokes the horrors of the present from environmental degradation and oil spills to the plight of migrants and refugees abroad, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement within the States.
The gallery’s press release describes the installation as “a deafening visual assault, which cannot be forgotten, nor silenced.” The stark blackness of Film Noir de Lampedusa is set to create a crucial interruption to the white-cube labyrinth of the Seattle Art Fair by engaging with, rather than removing itself from, current world affairs.
Adams and Ollman (Booth C1)
A similar form of political engagement is present in Ellen Lesperance’s paintings at Adams and Ollaman in Portland, Oregon. Inspired by the history of feminist activist groups as well as the more recent Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements, Lesperance memorializes the valor of those who put their lives on the line for what they believe in. Works such as We Are the Gentle Angry Women and We Are Singing For Our Lives and This is a Womyn-Only Space, replicate the sweaters worn by women involved in Direct Action campaigns captured in archival footage sourced by the artist. These intricate paintings recall knitting patterns, and reclaim the long unseen and unappreciated labors of women and craft-based artists. Lesperance’s works recover and resurface these histories to create colorful compositions that contain a potent political power.
Pace Gallery (Booth A7)
Last, but certainly not least, is Pace Gallery, an international powerhouse in the field of modern and contemporary art with seven locations spread around the globe. As expected, Pace has lined up an impressive roster of works by significant twentieth century artists such as Donald Judd, Maya Lin, James Turrell, and Lee Ufan. However, it is the installations by international collectives teamLab and Random International, part of Pace’s Art + Technology program that differentiate Pace from the other blue-chip galleries at the fair. teamLab and Random International each combine art, technology, and design in rigorous ways that appear effortless.
teamLab’s gorgeous and unique Ever Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Year (Gold) and Ever Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Year (Dark) will each be on display. In addition, teamLab will also be taking over part of the venue’s main space with the large-scale, interactive installation, Sketch Aquarium by teamLab Kids.
Random International’s inclusion will take the form of Blur Mirror, a full-length looking glass that blurs the viewer’s reflection due to the vibration of the individual mirror tiles that respond to motion sensors when someone stands in front of the piece. The process of obscuration is kinetic rather than optical, reinforcing the material nature of digital technologies.
This list is a starting off point so make sure to check out the Seattle Art Fair website for the full list of galleries as well as our overview of the Seattle Art Fair and summary of the official off-site performances. For the full listing of events, installations and lectures, visit the official Seattle Art Fair website and get your tickets.