What's the state of visual arts in D.C.? Four years ago, a contemporary art fair called ArtDC took place at the convention center. Fair organizers convinced all the D.C. contemporary art galleries to participate and enticed numerous non-D.C. galleries to exhibit, including many international galleries. The fair seemed well-organized and contained all the elements of a typical art fair: panel discussions, VIP section, performance art, and lots of other fun fair fanfare. Nonetheless, most in the D.C. art scene proclaimed it a failure for various reasons. For me, it felt sterile (maybe having been organized by non-D.C. art fair corporate organizer types) and there didn't seem to be any buzz around it at all. It came and went and was quickly forgotten.
Fast forward to 2011. Conner Contemporary announced earlier this year that it would co-host the (e)merge art fair to take place at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, owned by über art collectors Mera and Don Rubell. They hired art fair guru Helen Allen and planned lots of panels and performances and VIP stuff. All the usual art fair hubbub.
(e)merge kicked off last night and this time around, the D.C.-based art fair feels very different from the 2007 version. There's lots of buzz and hopefulness around it. For one thing, fair organizers did a great job reaching out to the D.C. art community, so the fair feels homegrown but with an international flair that is sure to blossom in the coming years. And a clear sign that the D.C. art scene is growing: several satellite fairs and alternative arts activities have popped up around (e)merge over the same weekend and it feels like there's an avalanche of arts in D.C.! Fair organizers may have been initially dismayed that their thunder was being weakened by everything else going on, but I think it's good for everyone and lifts up the entire art scene for now and the future. I think it's an indication that not only are their great arts organizers on the scene but that there's a growing audience for it. I'm really excited and gearing up for a great weekend!
So here's a quick rundown of the Avalanche of Arts this weekend as far as I know!
(e)merge art fair kicked off last night and runs through Sunday.
Look HERE for lots of great programming.
If you can't attend the fair, you can still submit images of emerging art to the digital mapping application designed and built by Licky McSpitty Studios and HacDC.org. Find out more about it HERE.
For a good laugh, check out Triathlon of the Muses on Saturday, Septemeber 24, noon to 2pm. Artists Jeffry Cudlin and Kathryn Cornelius will go head to head in artistic/athletic competition. I will be the referee and I plan to use my whistle liberally. No dirty shenanigans will be tolerated.
No Kings Collective bring us subMerge, and features many of DC's best street and graffiti artists among others.
Apparently we're not supposed to promote But Is It Art? but I can't help myself. It's being held at the Wonderbox, one of my favorite locations in the city and site of the best birthday party I've ever thrown myself, and organized by one of the most precocious people I've ever met: V.Milko.
Nuit Blanche DC-style takes place Saturday night with Art All Night.
Hyattsville art fair takes place all day on Saturday only.
FairFairFair. Don't know much about it yet but check back HERE for updates. This one will feature artists who were ditched earlier this week for some reason from the But Is It Art? fair.
SWArtsFest is also on this weekend. I'm excited about sock monkeys!
ZestFestDC is activating the streets of the NoMa neighborhood for 10 days. (Full disclosure: Pink Line Project is producing ZestFest.)
That's a LOT going on for one weekend! In the ten years I've lived in DC, I can't recall a time period when there was this much interest in the arts.
You may not be able to hit everything but The Fridge DC gallery is trying to help by providing a shuttle bus service between their space on Capitol Hill, (e)merge, and But Is It Art! More info about the shuttle HERE.