The Fair: International Contemporary Art in Vancouver
An exciting new exposition for modern art was recently held in Vancouver. For a city that has not traditionally held global status for hosting international art fairs The Fair: International Contemporary Art in Vancouver was a welcome addition to the burgeoning cultural landscape that is constantly supporting new ideas. It answered the challenge of new ways to showcase art and to attract new participants.
The inaugural installment was a wholly unique concept that saw a selection of local and international galleries exhibit for four days in a selection of rooms in the Whaldorf Hotel, an arts hub of East Vancouver. The founder and director of this unusual gallery set-up , Lucas Soi, who, while attending Art Basel Miami, was inspired by an experience following the closure of the main event space whereupon one gallery invited everyone remaining to come back to their hotel room. From this the idea of holding an art fair in a hotel back in Vancouver was born.
Soi returned to Vancouver and set about organizing 18 galleries from commercial, non-profit, artist-run, and even those associated with educational institutions to showcase their artists’ works at the Whaldorf Hotel, whose own renovations are still fresh. Mexico’s Preteen Gallery, Toronto’s Butcher Gallery, Seattle’s Lawrimore Project, Munich’s Goethe-Institut, including Vancouver’s very own Or Gallery and Access Gallery, found their digs at this iconic hotel on East Hastings Street. Each received their own room with the caveat that the hotel rooms remain furnished and as close to their original state; the galleries were to work around the beds, desks, consoles, chairs and televisions. After that the sense of display is left to the imagination: art hanging on walls, works spread out on the beds and leaning against the walls. Some further reinterpreted the spaces with special light installations and incorporating the objects in the room so long as they remain there.
One artist holding court with his fascinating exhibit was Dida Zende, a German artist whose conceptualized exhibition, freie internationale tankstelle (FIT), or “free international fuelling stations” challenged viewers to consider what action invokes change in the modern world. Constructing an L-shaped double-roomed space using two shipping containers, Zende cleaned out and emptied the insides and painted the outside entirely in white. The idea was to create something that is at once creatively sustainable (recycled materials) and accessible. Approached as the traditional white cube gallery turned inside out it works as a “social sculpture” that asks us to consider one’s relation to the outside world and how one can invoke change themselves, beginning from the experience of being part of the world looking out.
The Fair: International Contemporary Art in Vancouver succeeded in drawing a large, curious crowd who enjoyed a curiously welcoming alternative forum for modern art and, moreover, were rewarded with a strong diversity of presentations. Much like the larger international art fairs. But fresher, energized, and given to a new purpose.