John Tinker "Kumquat", 2008

Report from Santa Fe Art Fairs Season

“I would congratulate the organizers because they really did a fabulous job,” said Linda Durham talking about SoFa West (run by Mark Lyman) and her appreciation that the fairs print advertising showcased Kumquat:Nagami by artist John Tinker, a sculpture of a long stemmed acid-green fruit on a perch. Exhibiting that in her booth along with artists Erika Wanenmachers studded black body cast and Marty Horwitzs gold pillows may have led Durham to observe, as she did on SoFa opening night July 7th, that she was an atypical exhibitor for a fair in which galleries exhibiting glass, ceramics, jewelry, typically must, and do, bring their own case displays. The booth walls reach 12 high and the show lighting includes many additional spots for object drama such as in several booths. Durham sold one small piece at SoFa, she said.

Mindy Bray, "Spill", 2009, cut felt, approximately 120 x 48 inches

Mindy Bray, "Spill", 2009, cut felt, approximately 120 x 48 inches

Durhams assessment of market economics was darker and wryer from the floor of Art Santa Fe celebrating its 10th year July 15-18 with sparse attendance and the strange isolation on the lobby floor of the state-eco-tourism tipi (left). At her second fair in two weeks, Durham reflected how the new reality is apparently here to stay. The knowledge that the art market even for artists that Durham has represented now for decades, including such painters painters as Eugene Newmann , Larry Fodor and Lucy Maki (left), may not, as Durham, said, “ever come back,” and not to pre-Recession levels. This has led her to launch a new art patronage program asking $1000 a year to be guaranteed an art work. patronage dot org. at

Berlin dealer Walter Bischoff, who has exhibited at Art Santa Fe six times, did note that he has done well in the past and this year was his first poor showing. He exhibited small drawings by the Albanian artist Ymer Shaqiri and new work by Joachim Hiller and German contemporaries.

Robin Rule of Denver, reported her business conditions improving, thanks to strong sales of Sandy Skoglund photographs at Art Santa Fe Thursday night July 15. Exhibiting new works including by the only Colorado artist showing in The Nature of Things, Rule was one of the out of towners bringing to the fair a sorely lacking youthful presence–cut felt sculptures by Mindy Bray, right.

While I missed Roberta Smiths lecture Saturday night, I am sure she, the NY Times art critic married to Jerry Saltz, was in tune with the anomie. She has damned many shows this year, writing that Jeff Koons curating the Joannou collection for the New Museum had:  “barely any intellectual rigor.” She has also damned with faint praise,  “intellectual decorousness,” for the Tino Sehgal Guggenheim show. Her point is the risk-averse art world tends to remain, blandly, post-Minimalist-ically safe. You dont see a lot of minimalism at these fairs, even if the words safe or (totally) unrigorous might cross your lips.

Still,  SoFa took the prize for the sense of opening night having a buoyant feel to it, even though, as another Santa Fe exhibitor dealer at SoFa told me  (there were 28 dealers signed up for SoFa, 32 for Art Santa Fe), the sales just didnt follow for many.

Exception: the Clark + Del Vecchio booth was a mob with lots of sold stickers next to Diego Romeros on opening night. It would appear that the new spirit of Santa Fe embodied in the multiple-award-winning writer of Garth Clark, has jostled aside the bamboo baskets at TAI Gallery for  first place as the Santa Fe-category reaching now across art and craft aisles.

What you know you get at SoFa are category leaders  — Charon Kransen for jewelry, while at Patina Gallery on Palace Avenue the highest craft conditions on earth had attendees at the SNAG breakfast going rightfully speechless about the new John Iversen works on display. Equally brilliant front -and back.

Maybe in a sense this front-back problem describes a bit the morass Santa Fe is in right now: are we out front in how we show contemporary, or bean-counting in the back to stay safe?

Eternal Home Series by Yih-Wen Kuo.

Eternal Home Series by Yih-Wen Kuo.

While it can seem self-serving for dealers who have had many boom years in the past to complain their programs now are anti-commercial, it is indeed hard for Santa Fe to try to embody a Williamsburg aesthetic amid the reality of a more stodgy market demographic.  There have been many strong shows this summer. GEO-Decadence by Meow Wolf, which Linda showed, or the Currents video show that Sandy Zane and Zane-Bennett Gallery got behind; Eight Modern just closed a great Jason Salavon show by the edgy Chicago artist; 222 Shelby Street had on view until last week the phenomenological wonderland of Clytie Alexander and Edith Baumann. Meanwhile even as Santa Fe continues to plug its UNESCO “creative cities” status, the convention hall is so uncreative a piece of architecture it really has a tough time standing out.

As to why SoFa seemed better attended than Art Santa Fe. Timing with the July 9 weekends Folk Art Festival on Museum Hill may have played a part. And what a glorious thing that was. There is nothing fair in love, war or commerce but the throngs of attendance at the International Folk Art Festival had resulted in sales of more than $2 million of which 90 percent goes to the exhibitors —  many are womens cooperatives — and the average $15k take home for the artisan is probably too meaningful to sum up adjectivally. My visiting girlfriends bought from Haiti (the fantastic drapo vodou of Georges Valris), Senegal, and Uzbekistan, and we had a wonderful time but their visit also meant I missed a lot in person like the SNAG breakfast at which you hear metalsmiths talk their field.

I did see things I really liked at Art Santa Fe:

Paula Rolands encaustic at William Siegal Gallery. Kuos Eternal Home Series at Santa Fe Clay in a booth owner Avra Leodas designed with a playful feel.
It is now really hard to find a sense of fun at Art Santa Fe–  save perhaps at  LAUNCH Projects or  its garmento rack by Tete de Veau.  Conrad has often referenced the welcome jokiness and playfulness I also remember from Art Santa Fes first two editions, especially the one at the  pre-renovation La Posada,when Gracie Mansion showed pink plush bathmats by Mike Kelley.

(Full disclosure: we bought one and it lived in Conrads trunk the longest time).

Conrads memory at previous fairs was that you could measure distance between visitors with a yardstick; now you might need quite a few yards more.

(top photo: John Tinker “Kumquat”, 2008. Oil and encaustic on wood, epoxy resin. 15.5 x 37 x 8″ Represented by Linda Durham Contemporary Art Santa Fe, NM)

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