UpArt Contemporary Art Fair

Site-specific installations transform the Gladstone at UpArt 2010

The UpArt Contemporary Art Fair, unlike the relentless boxed maze of other art fairs (and not just TIAF), was a laid back salon-style event that asked artists to make site-specific works for the rooms (and hallways) of the second floor of the Gladstone. I'm a sucker for anything site-specific since it's always a great way to have artists to show of their creativity by responding to new spaces.

The curatorial theme for this year was "For What It's Worth: Curios, Collections and Counterfeits." The aim was to ask questions around the value of art, authenticity, appraisals and how objects are collected. Narwhal Art Projects had a fun, fantastical literal cabinet of curiosities addressing fetishism with works by artists like Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, Nicholas di Genova, and Katie Bethune-Leamen, in their exhibition, The Dazzle (two thumbs for a good exhibition title).

The normally online-only Circuit Gallery was also in attendance, and considering the degree to which their reproduction-based business model disrupts certain claims to originality, value and the role of the gallery space, their very presence alone played in well with the overall theme of the show (not to mention they feature lovely photographs).

April Wong

The concept also really worked well with April Wong's scaled-up marker drawings on shiny, reflective acetate that traveled up and around the walls. Her illustrations seemed to respond to what is outside the hotel: annoying construction on Queen Street, streetcars, cranes, huge big tidal waves carrying it all away, and the sense of everything starting all over again.

BAGART (Birdhead Affordable Game), an ongoing collaboration of an artwork and a stencil frame that expires exactly one year after its initial purchase (follow the link for a full explanation) was also on hand doing a sidewalk sale in the hopes of garnering interest in their unconventional works. Selling work at the price of 88 Big Macs (yes, really, that's the price) and via a limited contract (buyers can renew after a year), this is a project that directly and playfully challenges both the art object and the market in which it's attributed value.

Karen Kazmer Todd Davis

Perhaps the most cleverly site-specific installation was the Sonia Delanauy-inspired harlequin-wallpapered room with bathrobes (in an ode to Delanauy's 1923 design) and deconstructed mirrors. The installation by Karen Kazmer and Todd Davis takes from the source artist's forward-thinking graphic, interior, textile, and furniture designs that really sets a stage for how artists are utilizing multi-disciplinary methods today.

For a full list of participating artists and galleries, check the Gladstone's website.

Writing and photos by Swapna Tamhane.

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