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Short Takes: Art Fair Survey, James Ensor, Chinese Mask Changing, and More

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Survey: To Fair or Not to Fair?

As the director of a commercial art gallery, I was slightly disturbed by this article on The Art Newspaper's website last week: "Gallery System is Structurally Weak." According to the article: "a new report by the non-profit dealers' federation Cinoa finds that fair-led and online business is taking over as the main source of revenue. . . . Gallery visits are declining as the art market expands to new international centres served better by art fairs or electronic media."

And that's where my ideals come crashing headlong into economic reality. If there's one thing I've learned in the three years since I opened Offramp Gallery, it's that selling art is not easy. The idea of taking our show on the road to a larger audience by participating in art fairs is very tempting, even though I find attending the fairs a sterile and depressing experience. (One artist told me that the only time she ever stopped off at a bar by herself on the way home from anything was after visiting an art fair at the LA Convention Center.)

Using the same branding/marketing models for art that we use for cars, appliances and pharmaceuticals really bothers me. Isn't art supposed to operate on a higher plane and be the antithesis of, say, a gun show? Commodification of art is certainly not a new topic for debate, but I think it's as relevant now as it has ever been.

Participation in the fairs is also very expensive. I looked at the costs of booths at three of the upcoming fairs in LA. The least expensive was a 144 sq. ft. booth for $5,500, the most expensive, a 940 sq. ft. booth for $37,600. If you need more space, you are encouraged to inquire.

That's a lot of money for a small gallery like Offramp to risk in these volatile economic times. So -- I'd like to know how you feel about art fairs. Love them? Hate them? If you're a dealer or a gallerist, I'd love to hear your experiences and welcome your advice -- is it worth the risk? Should I dive in or stay away?

I've put together a short survey to get your feedback. Thank you in advance for participating. I will share the results with you soon.

Click here to take survey.

James Ensor

I wanted to share this deliciously dark YouTube video which was filmed in Belgian painter James Ensor's (1860-1949) house in Ostend and set to the music of Siouxsie Sioux.



Chinese Mask Changing

Speaking of masks, my YouTube meanderings led me to discover this video about the 300-year-old tradition of mask changing performed in Chinese Sichuan opera.

Face Painting

On a lighter face-changing note, I found this video, the "Amazing Face Paint Art of James Kuhn." I love the pineapple guy at 0:34, the Lichtenstein lady at 1:08 and the guy eating the hot dog at 2:57.

Cross-posted from Jane Chafin's Offramp Gallery Blog