A Fair Experience

It wasn’t raining last Friday, but I was happy to be inside nonetheless for a visit to The Fair. I heard amongst the chatter that it had been much busier for Thursday’s opening reception. I imagine the vibe then was probably very different from the very easygoing experience I had strolling amid scattered clusters of visitors. The chilled out tone on Friday suited me just fine and the intimate gathering encouraged conversation and mingling. I definitely enjoyed my visit. The collaborative atmosphere was strong and the resulting show was refreshing and adventurous. It was community at its best.

The 18 galleries were actually hotel suites and moving through the exhibits felt, at times, like being at a house party – navigating though spaces that felt rather private and piecing together the random conversations and goings-on in each room – the occasional unruly drunk speaking way too loudly in the hallways. The show did not have the same cohesion that an orchestrated show at a single gallery typically has, but rather took on the characteristic of variety that one would associate with a fair. Combining several curatorial visions resulted in diverse expressions throughout the rooms. Each exhibit set it’s own mood complemented by the people who maneuvered together around beds, and side tables to take it all in.

The Fair included some very compelling installations as well as great people watching opportunities. Using hotel rooms as Gallery space poses a series of challenges outside of the traditional gallery installation. Each exhibitor rose to the challenge to create a very interesting art show experience. Some rooms were stripped bare of the traditional hotel room trappings to make room for the artwork. Others crammed every inch of the room with artwork making use of the bed, nightstands, walls, and closets. Much like you can stumble or stroll into a room at that house party and never be certain what you’ll find behind the door so it was to find artwork hiding in the least likely places throughout The Fair.

I love when art encourages its audience to be more than just a viewer. I believe one very effective way to do this is to encourage bad behavior. Consider the notorious irresistibility of a host’s medicine cabinet at a dinner party. There is a certain thrill to snooping and – just as we might explore a cabinet of pills and creams and unmentionables – this was an event where snooping was rewarded. If you were brave enough to peek into a shower, behind a door, or into a drawer there were never ending surprises to unearth. This structure, or lack thereof, provided the opportunity for each visitor to create his or her own unique experience and was very engaging.

Based on the quality of the artwork and teamwork involved, I applaud the team of planners, exhibitors, and artists who came together to stage such a successful event.

Please, keep encouraging this excellent bad behaviour!

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