In the women’s restroom at the Seattle Art Fair, there is a micro-climate of pragmatism amidst the extravagance. A woman adjusts her oversized plastic frames in the mirror as another straightens her silver-sequined dress. There is more lipstick (in fuchsia, flame orange and scarlet) than I have seen in the previous six months in Seattle. For a moment each focuses with zero artifice on her own reflection, before quickly returning to the throng outside those cacophonous stadium-style bathrooms. The eye of aesthetic judgement passes from oneself to the other attendees, and probably also the artwork.
It’s impossible to talk about an art fair without talking about its patrons. This mystifying social scene is unlike anything else in the art world. Galleries from around the globe are arranged in the lower level of the convention center–there are white walls of curtains uplit in pastel–but even at its height, the fair is still Trade Show Chic. On opening night it is fully “see and be seen.” Depending on my mood, I either see this as peak Art World or utter blasphemy. A gallerist located near the restrooms croons to an interested party about a large painting, “don’t these just look expensive!” Of course they do. All art looks like giant cartoon dollar signs to a certain subset of people, and if art is supposed to reflect the culture that it’s in, what could be more American than that.
Work that cuts through this tendency is what speaks to me most, and that’s what I’ve tried to include here: the pieces that stood out like beacons amidst the fluff. I’ve also included photos from the weekend’s most anti-art fair experience, the unveiling of Molly Gochman’s temporary public piece Red Sand Project. Three tons of red sand in the shape of the southern US border, this land artwork brings awareness to the plight of human trafficking victims, a common problem especially in port cities. The border, especially in this moment, feels like a giant psychic wound on our nation, but Gochman has managed to capture the reality of the pain along with the fragility of the line on the map.