7.9.10: Throngs of visitors trudged up Snake Hollow Road last night for the opening of ArtHamptons, the East End's art world Lollapalooza. They slogged through Sayre Park's grasslands and manure fields in strappy sandals and rubber flip flops toward the 52,000 sq ft of tented sky that is Rick Friedman's 2010 "wow machine." The operative word: gigantism. Close to 100 galleries and thousands of art works, baubles, bangles and takeaways lined miles of corridors and movable walls. With most booths renting for a cool 5 figures, it'll be interesting to see who comes out ahead in this unpredictable market.
Art and money have made strange bedfellows for as long as there have been beds, so it's useless to bellyache about crass commercialism, outrageous prices or greedy art dealers. It is what it is. But there are a few things about art fairs that inspire commentary. No. 1) for some people, art fairs reinforce the idea that art is frivolous and driven by fashion; No. 2) almost without question, art fairs wipe out focus; No. 3) art fairs have a tendency to pander to conventionalism; and No. 4) -- (my personal favorite) art fairs have little to do with art and very much to do with art dealers. Not that it's criminal -- after all, some of my favorite people are art dealers, but one should know it going in. In a nod to the huge number of "isms" in post-war American art, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called this phenomenon "Fairism."