Abigail Esman expresses frustration at the artists and works on offer at FIAC. But her dismay hinges on mistaking an art fair for a gallery or museum show. As the art market expands, it follows the same patterns as other markets with investment crowding toward safe, liquid instruments. That herd activity isn’t often smart or remunerative but the pattern in equities, bonds and other instruments is too pervasive to ignore. Forced to choose between the cheap risk and the “safe” but expensive purchase, most buyers will follow the “safe” money. Just ask anyone who bought a Richter abstract recently.
All of that helps explain Esman’s take on FIAC:
There comes a point in any art boom, anyway, when certain artists are just too present – and that point seems to have arrived this time with Lucio Fontana: between two booths that found themselves inconveniently adjacent to one another, I counted eight Fontana canvases. Suddenly, these jewels of art, which I’ve always considered absolute showstoppers, gained a kind of ordinariness, a pick-and-choose quality amongst them, like shopping for pillowcases. Four slashes or five? Red or green or yellow?
A certain commercial predictability (or predictable commerciality?) seems to have taken over the art fair scene at this point in the art boom, where the alternative route would – and should – have been to take advantage of a growing interest in art and art-buying to bring new collectors in touch with lesser-known, even more daring talents. And maybe that will still come at Miami Basel later in the year; American art fairs tend to be more adventurous than European ones. But the endless parade of Murakami-Bourgeois-Fontana-Warhol-Hirst is becoming so tedious one almost begins to dread these events where once the opening of an art fair sparkled with excited anticipation and eager chatter over new discoveries. Are dealers simply playing it safe in a moment of economic uncertainty? Are European buyers less adventurous? Or is everyone just becoming boring? (Though at about $100,000 for an average booth – never mind the transport of the works— it’s also a bit understandable that everyone might want to make sure to recoup the costs of participating in such an event in the first place.)