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By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
You can probably take the pulse of the art market by what’s happening in New York in the Spring. The Armory Show, as well as a number of other fairs like the Pulse, Volta, Scope, and Bridge New York, bring hundreds of large collectors, and thousands of smaller ones to the city to buy up the best of the years available contemporary art. But the 2009 Armory Show auction sales for Phillips, Sotheby's, and Christie's — which are a barometer for the upcoming year — added up to an approximate total of $8 million dollars, which still seems like quite a lot of cash to spend on art, but in comparison to 2007 and 2008 sales of nearly $30 million, it was a total bust.
In a market which seems not to have a bottom, and in a city which in a span of 8 months has gone from the largest of booms to, in certain parts of the city, veritable ghost towns, one might think that it is desperate time for the art world. During a recent trip to New York City, SoHo, which is known for being full of consumers who can't stop, is speckled with empty retail spaces once holding luxury brands, and brand new condos without occupants. On the east side, between 23 and 57th street there are about four million square feet of open real estate. Yet, in spite of all of this, the public’s demand for contemporary art is still high, with thousands of people waiting in line for admission to New York's great museums (including the Guggenheim Museum which is even more beautiful now with its freshly preserved and improved facade) , and even more were wading through Chelsea and some SoHo galleries over the weekend.
While overall the gallery output was rather lackluster, there were a few diamonds in the rough. Luckily Candice Breitz, a former Whitney Independent Study Program student, had her genius piece "Him + Her" on view at Yvon Lambert Gallery. "Him" and "Her" are separate but equal video installation depicting 28 characters which Meryl Streep has played, and 23 characters which Jack Nicholson has played throughout their careers, collaged together into dialogues on internal psychological struggles of the individuals, and representing many cliche gendered social constructions. These rather long video pieces both inspire and entertain, breaking up the rythm of the video collage with a soundtrack of simple beats, and turn these two actors into male and female universal characters by pieces single lines, small monologues, and vocal snippets from the many movies which they have created over their long careers.
You can find "Him + Her" at www.candicebreitz.net, in the video section of her portfolio.
Ryan McGuinness, who has over the last few years become a major art star, was another sight for sore eyes with his newest Deitch Projects exhibition, "Ryan McGuinness Works". This exhibition of paintings, sculpture, and black light installations was as always executed with precision, but also very interesting from an art historical perspective. McGuinness' silkscreen paintings are a combination of both Andy Warhol's pop art appropriation of popular culture symbols and the silkscreen format, with the "all over" composition of the abstract expressionists, but doing this through the lense of graphic design and the visual vocabulary of the logo. "Ryan McGuinness Works", includes large scale, brilliant, multi-colored canvases, a series of nearly monotone canvases, a group of curious plexiglass sculptures printed with similiar patterns, a group of black rounded paintings, and finally, a group of black and neon paintings which when paired with black lights become psychadelic installation pieces.
You can find Ryan McGuinness's work at www.ryanmcguinness.com.
Overall, the art world in New York has certainly taken a hit in comparison to the last few years, but in comparison to the large decline that the city has taken as a whole, the art world seems stable. The strong venues, galleries, and non-profits are staying while the weaker secondary groups are being weeded out in a "survival of the fittest" style business model (may galleries are shutting down, merging, and doing anything necessary to hopefully eek through this economic downturn). The museums are healthy, and seem to be able to keep the interests of the people.
Taking all of this to the local level, we see the Fort Wayne Museum of Art pursuing a large expansion, Arts United continuing to support a huge number of non-profit organizations throughout the Northeast Indiana region, and area art schools are gearing up for their spring student exhibitions.
The University of Saint Francis' 33rd Annual Student Show will be opening April 4th with an opening from 6-9pm, and staying open through May 1st. This show is always a highlight and will feature more than 800 pieces of art (priced very affordably), and will also include musical and theatrical performances as well. This exhibition will take place throughout the Ian & Mimi Rolland Art Center, and extend to the North Campus Auditorium and Lupke Galleries.
Also currently on view is the IPFW BFA Exhibition for Fine Art Students. This show opened on March 30th and will be open until April 17th, with an artist's reception on Friday, April 3rd from 6-8pm.
After a rocky Winter, this Spring is already showing signs that, even though the market in general is still going to be rough, the art market is staying fairly stable. Hopefully, Fort Wayne artists and arts organizations can understand and use this market to their favor, and continue to grow our local market and arts scene even during these tough times, to build the correct infrastructure for the next boom.