It's the third year of Portland's very own art fair, the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel. Like the past two years, it's an opportunity to attend a weekend-long museum in which more than 30 hotel rooms are packed with all the art that dealers from around the country could squeeze into their suitcases. Over the past few weeks, Mercury readers have inundated us with inquiries about Affair protocol. Answering these questions requires expert advice. After all, who wants to look like an asshole while beefing up a fledgling contemporary art collection? Lucky for you, the Mercury does double duty as the arbiter of art-fair etiquette. So without further ado, here are a few letters from our Affair at the Jupiter Hotel mailbag. We hope they help you muster all the knowing aloofness you'll need to brave this intimidating art extravaganza.
Is there anything new this year?
The fair itself is well preserved, but there are a couple notable activities orbiting the hoopla. First up, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks will perform at the opening night artists' party. On Saturday morning, there's an official-sounding "keynote address" courtesy of Helen Molesworth, curator of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and throughout the weekend, Roger Ballen—a fascinating and controversial photographer—will exhibit his new work, Shadow Chamber. Likewise, videos will be screened all weekend: Friday night kicks off Paul Collins' "24-Hour Three Stooges," and on Sunday, guest curators screen some of their favorite vids.
Many dealers use every square inch of their hotel room for showing art—including the bathroom. Is it cool if I, you know, need to go?
Of course! Our favorite way to handle this is to sniff, "I'd like a few minutes alone with the art." Then grab a copy of ARTnews and disappear.
Will this year's Affair feature as many doodles on lined notebook paper?
With any luck, there will be even more. Trend-spotting artists who missed the boat on the ubiquitous influence of graphic novels and Marcel Dzama's cartoon-ish drawings have an enormous market opportunity: trend-spotting collectors who missed the boat on the ubiquitous influence of graphic novels and Marcel Dzama's cartoon-ish drawings. And really, if we're all late to the party, does it ever have to end?
Visiting any one of these galleries by themselves would be free, so why does the Affair charge an admission fee?
Because you're cheap. If you're not cheap, then you're poor. Okay, if you're holding the Mercury in your grubby little mitts right now, you're probably both. And if you fall into either category, you don't go throwing your money around at art fairs. So if you aren't going to drop a chunk o' change on some lined-notebook-paper doodles, the Affair's got to shake you down for five bucks. Them's the rules. Did you think award-winning destination hotels rent themselves? Overhead, people!
What was it that Clark Flood recently wrote about art fairs on glasstire.com?
Oh, you must be referring to his essay in which he wrote, "For those who don't know, art fairs are the way of the art world these days. They are as inevitable as kissing the anuses of those more powerful than you, and just as enjoyable. Like the whole world, they make a lot of sense when looked at from the point of view of the very wealthy, because art fairs, like the whole world, are entirely set up to service the very wealthy." Or did you mean the part where he advised artists to stay home? "Your art is exhibited with all the curatorial finesse of the detergent displays at Fiesta, and with as much honor, but you're lucky just to get product onto these supermarket shelves... Then you can enjoy watching a bunch of clueless tourists, blind art professionals, manipulative collectors, and gutless dealers walk around feeling important, dissing each other, and equating the state of their personal financial health with the state of Art Today. In the best-case scenario, they haggle over your work the way old peasant women at a street market in Caracas might haggle over a particularly attractive gourd. That's called being a big hit at the art fair."
Do you agree with Flood?
Would you look at that! We're all out of space here! See you at the Affair!