Last year, Portland art audiences—and hundreds of those who would never classify themselves as such—proved that Stuart Horodner's vision was not in vain. At the inaugural Affair at the Jupiter Hotel, throngs of visitors packed into the East Burnside hotel-turned-art mini-mall for the city's first art fair.
Just as PICA's TBA Festival is the equivalent of attending a year's worth of global dance and experimental performances in 10 short days, Affair is also about cramming thousands of miles and countless hours of art viewing into a concentrated time and space. In the case of Affair, 40 US galleries and art spaces open up their "private stash" of back-room work by artists and create half-scale gallery installations—each of which is equal to a personal and intimate gallery visit. But instead of cruising around town to visit a half-dozen spaces, there are over three dozen of them on one city block, and you're there with hundreds of other viewers. And you have three days to do it all!
So what can you expect at Affair? In a word—inundation. Art fairs are anti-contemplative settings; sort of speed-dating for art viewing. Each of the 40 hotel rooms at the Jupiter serve as an impromptu art gallery, where dealers bring in their hottest works to show off and hopefully sell. The gallerists maximize their small confines creatively. Video screens are propped up on the back of toilets, drawings and small works of art are stashed under beds, and many galleries commission their artists to create site-specific pieces—bathtub installations, window paintings, or even complete room transformations, as Chris Johansen did last year for San Francisco's Jack Hanley Gallery.
If you go to the Affair for a couple hours, you will likely see over a 1,000 works of art from galleries and art centers around the country. The atmosphere is fast-paced, convivial, and highly energetic. At its best, it's a vitalizing gallery-hopping concentrate. At its worst, it's like trying to learn about Swedish furniture on the opening day of Ikea.
Horodner, who was the visual arts curator at PICA for several years before organizing the first Affair with Laurel Gitlen, has recently moved to Atlanta, but plans to sustain the fair as an annual Portland event.
"The fair gets easier to organize and manage now that we have done it one or two times," Horodner notes. "And galleries are already asking about next year. The fair has legs now and I don't see why we would not continue it as long as participants feel it is successful."
With the national word-of-mouth buzz about the success of last year's fair, more emerging and established galleries across the country look to travel to Portland. In addition to a who's-who of Portland galleries, participating spaces this year include the Greg Kucera Gallery (Seattle); Bucheon, Jack Hanley, and Heather Marx Galleries (San Francisco); Art Palace (Austin); Richard Heller Gallery (LA); Inman Gallery (Houston); and others from Atlanta, Victoria BC, and New York.
This year, nonprofit art spaces are also getting in on the action, with the legendary White Columns Gallery in New York, Houston's DiverseWorks, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria all making the trip to Portland to show us what they've got. As if that weren't enough, Reed College is sponsoring a one-room installation by Mona Hatoum—one of the most famous and important British artists working today.
What? You demand more? Fine—Art Papers magazine out of Atlanta is hosting an art-writing workshop on Friday; on Saturday, there's a panel discussion on art patronage; and Sunday finds Wayne Koestenbaum, regular contributor to Artforum and author of Andy Warhol, giving a 10 am lecture at PNCA.
Portland's art scene is exponentially gaining national recognition for its bumper crop of exciting young artists, but the city still isn't known for being a "collector town" (though some would argue that's starting to change). So what does Horodner hope to achieve with the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel?
"The best case is that it cultivates a seriousness and satisfaction for all," he says. "That artists make contacts for their careers or sell work; that galleries meet peers around the country and exchange artists; that everyone's contacts are expanded, new information is made visible, and people discover new artists to be excited about. The collectors should be excited to see more diverse work than they normally can in Portland, meet dealers in other cities so their knowledge base expands, collections are made better, new models of patronage develop. If all this happens then we can expect that more adventurous arts professionals come to Portland more often; but most important is that the fair cultivates a love of looking at art—year-round!"
Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel runs Fri–Sun at the
Jupiter Hotel, 800 E. Burnside St.
Friday, Sept. 30:
6-9pm Preview Gala to benefit the Portland Art Museum Center for Modern and Contemporary Art ($100)
10pm-1am—Artist's party featuring the Deep Throats, Barr, and DJ P Disco ($10 open bar)
Saturday, Oct. 1
10-11:30am—panel discussion PATRONAGE NOW
12-7pm—Fair open to public ($5)
Sunday, Oct. 2
10-11:30am—Lecture by Wayne Kostenbaum at PNCA
12-7pm—Fair open to public ($5)