Friday, February 27, 2009

Chronology of the art crunch !

We have gathered some keys dates and events of the economic crisis and the main contemporary art auctions to show how the art market has followed the same declining trend as all other assets in the world (in bold, art related events):

July 10, 2007: So-called credit crunch starts with the downgrade of some $12 billion of subprime debt by rating agency S&P.

October 1, 2007: UBS announces $3.4 billion losses from sub-prime related investments; this announcement is the first of many to come.

January 21, 2008: global stock markets experience their most serious drop since 9/11.

March 17, 2008: JP Morgan acquires Bear Stern for $240 million; 12 months earlier, Bear Stern was valued $18 billion.

May 13, 2008: Christies sales for $348.26 million of post war and contemporary art.

May 14, 2008: Murakami’s “My Lonesome Cowboy” sells at Sotheby’s for $13.5 million while estimated $3-4 million. The auction achieved $362.03 million in 73 lots. During that auction Francis Bacon’ “Triptych 1976” sold for $86.28 million becoming the most expensive work of contemporary art ever auctioned.

June 2008: ArtPrice annual report announces that contemporary art sales generated EUR 980 million between june 2007 and june 2008, up 50% on the previous year for a volume of transactions roughly equivalent.

July 31, 2008: UK Nationwide announces the biggest fall in house prices (8.1%) since it started its survey in 1991

September 15, 2008: Wall-Street bank Lehman Borthers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The same day, Merrill Lynch agrees to be taken over by bank of America for $50 billion.

September 15, 2008: Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, Part I, Damien Hirst sales for £70,545,100 (including buyer’s premium).

September 16, 2008: The US Federal Reserve rescues insurance company AIG with a $85 billion package.

September 16, 2008: Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, part II, Damien Hirst sales for £40,919,700 (including buyer’s premium).

September 17, 2008: UK’s biggest mortgage lender HBOS is taken over by Lloyds TSB for £12 billion.

September 25, 2008: US mortgage lender Washington Mutual is closed down by the US regulators and sold to JP Morgan Chase.

October 17, 2008: Sotheby’s contemporary art sale in London struggled to find bidders and fetched £22 million with fees versus a lower estimate of £30.6 million.

October 18, 2008: Philips-de Pury auctions fetched only £5 million versus a lower estimate of £18.6 million; this includes Murakami’s sculpture “tongari-kun” failure to attract a single bid while expected to attract at least £3.5 million.

November 26, 2008: The European Commission release EUR200 billion in an attempt to save millions of European jobs.

December 1, 2008: The US recession is officially declared by the national Bureau of Economic Research

January 23, 2009: The UK officially entered a recession as fourth quarter 2008 GDP falls by 1.5% compared with previous three months.

February 11, 2009: Christies London sales 79% of a 29 lots offering in a 36 minutes auction representing £8.4 million with fees (88% below the £72.9 million achieved at the equivalent option the previous year).

More to follow…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Warhol Economy: An Interview with Elizabeth Currid

Sociologist Elizabeth Currid studied the influence of the culture industry on New-York economy and claims that it has a similar impact - if not bigger - than Wall-Street. Interview with the author.

Could you please present your work in few words.
I study the economics of cultural industries: fashion, art, music and design. I find that so much of their work revolves around their social life.

Based on your work, the art was created in the street and became an industry when it started to penetrate the night life, especially when artists and socialites mixed together. Are those two components still the same today in New-York in 2009?
I think subcultures have great appeal to mainstream markets because they are innovative and unusual. Nightlife is an important conduit for getting information about new art forms into the market place and on the public’s radar.

Has the market boom and the amount of money invested in art increasingly corrupted young artists and alternatively do you think the serious crisis the economy and thus the art industry are facing will bring back the creative world to where it was in the ebulliant 70’’ and 80’’?
I don’t ever buy the idea that because an artist is economically successful he is “corrupted”. I think all artists have a right to try to acheive economic success doing what they love. I do think that art markets work in bifurcated economies, that the boom brought lots of disposable income but simultaneously outpriced new artists from living in NYC and the bust will depress real estate prices and rent and but also give greater access to artists. So artists flourish in both types of economies, albiet in different ways.

At what point art became an industry, a serious business?
I think on some level art has always been commodified and a serious business. Certainly painters have been commissioned to do work for hundreds of years. But the ubiquity of turning art into a consumer good, and one that all social stratospheres can access to an extent, really caught on in the 1980s with graffiti in the galleries and the rise of hip-hop into mainstream markets.

You demonstrate that the culture industry creates economic value to the city of New-York. What could be the consequences of the desaffection of collectors (due to the economic crisis) and the fact that more and more artists establish their studios outside New-York (or at the hedge of the city) or in European cities like Berlin or Barcelona?
Well, the economic crisis has and will continue to hit New York City particularly hard. This is generally a Very Bad Thing. But the silver lining is that it will make this incredibly cost-prohibative city more accessible to many other socio-economic groups besides just the wealthy. In doing so, artists may move back into the city and form the artistic neighborhoods that have produced great artists such as the Abstract Expressionists or the East Village artists of the 1970s.

The Armory Show is starting next week; from your research point of view, what role does The Armory Show play in the NY culture scene?
The Armory Show is both a gatekeeper and an important social scene that puts the major players in the international art world in the same place. Brilliant artists, savvy dealers, thoughtful critics, art loving buyers all show up. Things happen. Careers are made. New York remains an important part of the game.

Does your work and the meetings and interviews you had enable you to identify the leaders of the new generation of gallerists, artists and fashion designers. If yes, can you give us few names ?

I would never pretend that my observations of the economic and social processes of the art world make me an expert on what is “good art”. I’ll leave the soothsaying to the dealers and art critics.

The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art and Music drive New-York City by Elizabeth Currid, Princeton University Press.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Volta Show NY: booth selection

Vicious Vitamins recommends you to visit the following booth:

Arnaug Maguet, La Blanchisserie (Boulogne-Billancourt, France), booth

Using very diversified means, Arnaud Maguet questions the basic aspects of the 1950’s to 1970’s subculture. He starts with music (rock’n’roll, punk, krautrock, hip-hop, free jazz, psychedelic music…), then goes on to Kenneth Anger’s or Andy Warhol’s experimental films, D.I.Y. graphics, underground literature, popular films (and all the letters that categorise them, from B to Z and vice-versa) ; in so doing he calls forth a great many more or less well known legends. These legends have in common a « garage » type of aesthetic – or how, after one has completely and urgently failed to replicate the hoped for model, one chooses to marvel at the result rather than just to make the best of it. Like T.W. Adorno who underscored the “fetishist aspect in music”, Arnaud Maguet’s pieces turn these legends into relics of our collective memory, magnifying or distorting the original fiction. Thus he produces a body of work in which each added element completes the programme of a show that takes shape as it is being performed, creating a record company (Les Disques en Rotin Réunis / United Rattan Records), while at the same time becoming a member of various groups himself (Alpha-60, Beauty and the Beat, the Groovers, Finger On You).

Francisco Valdés, Elaine Lévy Project (Brussels, Belgium)

To frame Francisco Valdés work in a particular style or medium would draw an artificial enclosure around it and miss its inherent heterogeneity; his pieces explore exchanges between dimensions and means of reproduction rather than an explicit theme. Accordingly, unexpected gestures of resurrection, ingenious acts of appropriation, translation between media and explorations of exorcism abound in them.

The artist’s sources are varied too: images taken from eBay, old books, consecrated artworks, Youtube, his personal collection of ghost pictures, and others. All this alludes to Valdés' distrust for unquestioned representations of reality, an attitude that has been described as mixing “suspiciousness towards and flirtation with the double meaning of sophistication”. The works of the show are constructed upon low-resolution images, a primary source that generates a sort of unstable space, eager to be manipulated. At the other end, the final pieces suggest sensations of temporal displacement, sound, and movement, alongside a recursive system of fictions which subverts apparently secure categories such as “prototype”, “original” or “mass produced”.

Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Magnan Projects (New-York, USA)

Possibility takes new direction. The in-your-face approach and raw materials used to create imposing “active” physical structures in his earlier works transitions to a more subtle, contemplative approach. The equilibrium of forces and materials give way to create relationships with objects that create situations in which the viewer is faced with challenges to commonly held perceptions.

At Magnan Emrich Contemporary show in late 2008, Almanza created Out to Lunch (Closed for the day). Addressing ideas of safety measures and codes, the artist wraps and ties chain links into knots creating a huge ball suspended from the ceiling rafters of the gallery. Its’ own weight pushes the chain to its established load limit. Visitors entering the space are confronted with the threatening structure. Will it break from its own weight? Do we trust the safety codes that are imposed on us? Or, does one assume that in a gallery setting it must be safe to walk under or around? Perceptions of danger become individual experiences.

The New-York Art Week: Selection 2

Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective at MOMA
“I’m a big fan of Martin Kippenberger so when I saw there was a retrospective at the MOMA I was super excited! I’ll never miss this one for sure. This exhibition shows a broad diversity of works and medium that Kippenberger made along his career so it should be quite comprehensive even for those not familiar with his work…!”

MOMA: 11 West 53 Street, New-York (

Michael Borremans: Taking Turns at David Zwirner Gallery
“Michael Borremans is a fantastic artist, very complex mind but doing accessible work..! and he’s from Belgium which is a country I like with great – although sometimes unknown – artists and galleries. Borremans paintings mix traditional techniques and imageries with contemporary references; all what I like !”

David Zwirner Gallery: 252 West 19th Street, New-York (
Gregory de la Haba: Equus Maximus at Jack The Pelican
“I saw an incredible piece of Gregory de la Haba at Briadge Art fair in Miami: an installation of three horses (real size!) around a gambling table; just go there to see this piece which is still shown at the gallery. I’m sure there’s much more to see from this exhibition and that will be an opportunity to visit other Brooklyn’s galleries.”

Jack The Pelican: 487 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn (

Serban Savu: The Edge of the Empire at David Nolan Gallery
“I’m very interested in Romania and Romanian artists. David Nolan has an exhibition of School of Cluj artist Serban Savu which I’d like to see. This will also be an opportunity to see the gallery’s new space in Chelsea. David Nolan also has some available work of Ciprian Muresan which I collect so I’d like to see what he currently has.”

David Nolan Gallery: 527 West 29th Street, New-York (

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The New-York Art Week: Selection 1

Location One
“I’ll visit Location One as each time I’m in New-York; Location One is one of the best non-for-profit art space (exhibition and residency) in the heart of Soho and it is run by very nice people that I always enjoy meeting. They currently have a retrospective of Nayland Blake which is interesting; although it is a non-for-profit, their program is of similar quality of a commercial gallery. They celebrate their 10th anniversary very soon which I may attend ad well.”

Location One: 26 Green Street (Canal/Grand), New-York (


Universal Gym by Thomas Hirschhorn at Gladstone Gallery
“I usually follow Thomas Hirschhorn with attention. He is always very excessive but interesting. I know the title of this solo show he currently has at Gladstone Gallery, Universal Gym, and I find the topic quite interesting as gym and fitness have become an obsession in the western world.”

Gladstone Gallery: 530 West 21th street, New-York (


Rock On Mars by Stephen Sprouse at Deitch Project
“I like Deitch Project; he has a great list of artists in his gallery and I’ve always enjoyed the bridges he builds between visual art and music. I’ll pop by his gallery to see the Stephen Sprouse exhibition. I’m not very familiar with Stephen Sprouse that why this retrospective is a good opportunity to get to know him better. Here again, there will be a mix of art, fashion, rock n’ roll and design !!!”

Deitch Project: 18 Wooster Street, New-York (


AND/OR by Jonathan Horowitz at PS1
“I always go to PS1 and spend some time to Brooklyn and Williamsburg; I’m always a tourist in New-York! I want to see the exhibition of Jonathan Horowitz, his first solo show in a New-York museum. he's work is always very political, a clever critic of the media and celebrity business in the US. The recent election of Barak Obama and the event Jonathan Horowitz organized at Gavin Brown's Enterprise the day of the election makes this exhibition a "must-see" in New-York at the moment.”

PS1: 22-25 Jackson Avenue (46th Ave), Long Island City, Brooklyn (

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Armory Show: An interview with Katelijne De Backer

Katelijne De Backer, Executive Director of The Armory Show, answered our questions:

2009 is probably the most challenging year so far due to the economic environment. Will you judge the success of the Armory Show 2009 upon the same criteria than the previous years?
We have always judged ourselves by the quality of the art shown and that remains our primary concern. Of course sales are important, but we feel they result from the great work our galleries exhibit.

Have you taken into account the current economic environment when selecting the galleries? Did you take into account the tough times gallerists and artists are currently facing?
The economic crisis hit the art world after our selections were made, so it didn’t affect our considerations – nor our applications. But we are very aware of the difficulties our exhibitors are facing, so we have tried to help them by offering them such options as being able to get smaller booths and to make their payments in instalments. We have also stepped up our efforts to attract committed visitors to the fair. It is worth remembering that our fair started (as the Gramercy International Fair of New Art) as a response to the art market crash of the 1990s, and the same reasons that made it a success then make it a success now: by pooling the resources of the world’s best galleries in New York, the center of the art world, our exhibitors have access to more collectors, curators and critics than they ever could have on their own.

What are the main differences between Armory Show 2009 and Armory Show 2008?
The most obvious difference is that we have expanded to include Pier 92, in which we are debuting The Armory Show – Modern, a section devoted to Modern and secondary-market contemporary art. I feel that it gives our fair historical depth that it didn’t have before. This also gave us the opportunity to reach out to organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum and the Neue Gallery to get involved in our off-site events.

As sales will be certainly lower than the previous years, have you taken more risk, being more audacious or, on the contrary, have you favoured “high street” galleries and very established artists?
As I said, our decisions were not dictated by the market. I expect that the galleries in our Modern section will bring their heavyweights, while the contemporary galleries will continue to do what they do best – the more established ones will bring their stars, while the younger ones will dazzle us with new talent.

Is the Modern Art section a sign of return to fundamentals, a sign that the excess of contemporary art (declining quality of art works, prices out of control) are over?
I wouldn’t look at it that way. In 2007 we held our fair at the same time as the ADAA held theirs, and we discovered that both fields reinforced each other. We have wanted to take advantage of this at The Armory Show, but were only able to do it this year thanks to our parent company, MMPI, which was able to secure our permanent access to both piers. I do agree that prices were out of control, but that was a result of excesses throughout, not just limited to the art world. I’m glad that things will return to more realistic levels.

Why have you not diversified to design instead of Modern art as it seems it is becoming the next hot collection to have...?
Our only concern is fine art, and it will continue to be that way.

Does it really make sense to have several galleries within the largest fairs that represent the same artists. Some important artists such as Damien Hirst or Anish Kapoor are represented by four or five galleries in some other big fairs...? Is it a concern you have at The Armory Show?
Our Selection Committee (made up of six gallerists from around the world) spend a lot of time weighing the strength of our applicants’ programs. They’re not only concerned with whom they represent, but their standing in the art world and their commitment to their artists. With nearly 250 galleries, it’s inevitable that there will be some crossovers, but for the most part you will see a great variety of work, a lot of which you may not have the chance to see elsewhere.

Would you dare asking galleries to coordinate before the fair in order to do not have too much of the same few artists in different booths?
We don’t do that. Usually galleries that represent the same artists negotiate amongst themselves. But we leave it entirely up to their discretion.

Given the buyant artistic environment of New-York and the permanent presence of very large collectors, there is a risk of being too “New-York centric”. Is it a concern you keep in mind when selecting the galleries? Or on the contrary, do you clearly play the card of New-York...?
We really aim to have a great variety, which is why we make sure that our Selection Committee is made up of dealers from all over the world. This year our Committee was made up of Ciléne Andréhn from Stockholm, Olivier Antoine from Paris, Matthias Arndt from Berlin, Stefania Bortolami from New York, Marc Foxx from Los Angeles and Alison Jacques from London.

Generally, how do you see the art fairs market evolving? Do you believe that fairs will increasingly become like Miami art week with a mix of art, parties, celebrities... or do you think fairs will become more like the Basel week where art and only art matters...?
We work hard on our VIP Program and we have dozens of events happening all over the city, but our emphasis has always been on the art. Parties are great, but we don’t want people to forget what they are here for.
Pier 92 and 94
5-8 March 2009
Noon to 8pm (7pm on 8)
12th Avenue and 55th Street

Notice to the art crowd

Photographed at The Half King in Chelsea, New-York, on 12 February 2009
The writing aside says: "Too bad, his millions haven't"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Volta New-York: List of events

Beside the main fair, a number of animations, events and talks are organized on the fair site or in cinemas of Manhattan. Here is a list of the “official” events:

Imperfect Articles
Imperfect Articles will be on site with their limited edition T-shirts with artwork by contemporary and emerging artists, such as Akroe, Anders Nilsen, Atsushi Kag, Carmen Price, Cody Hudson, David Shrigley. Davis/Langois, Eri Ito, Huskmitnavn, Hvass&Hannibal, Ian Pedigo, Joshua Abelow, Katherine Bernhardt, Matthew Feyld, Misaki Kawai, Rashid Johnson, Richard Colman, and UFEX as well as Italian artist Pesce Khete and Troels Carlsen from Denmark, both of whom are exhibiting at VOLTA NY.

Web site:

Colección Whitney

In the lobby will be Colección Whitney, a work by New York-based artist Trong Nguyen, a replica of the medieval discipline device of the stocks, used often in olden days of New York City to publicly punish criminals. In keeping with his practice, which often questions the power relationships between viewer and art object, here the Vietnamese artist aims to regain control of the act of looking by encouraging the visitor to spend time in the stocks. Both the object’s name and its given name (“stocks” and “Whitney”) also ask us to consider how the financial crisis, banks, or public and private collections, create a hierarchy of art objects and artists.

Web site:

Suck it ! by Sweet Tooth of the Tiger
Collaborative operation of Sweet Tooth of the Tiger with contemporary artist and pastry chef Tara Strickstein, presents Suck-it! In which sweets will be given out to visitors, artists and dealers. Highlighting the choreography and ceremonial nature of food exchange, Tara and experimental chef Adam Danforth, explore innovative flavor pairings combined with a unique sense of social ritual based in art theory and reflecting their individual studio practices. STT organizer, Tracy Candido, utilizes the public sphere as a place for eating, feeding, and talking with your mouth full and provides a "sugar high" that aims to engage active dialog and conversation.

Web site:

A New Stance for Tomorrow
Amanda Coulson, director of VOLTA NY, the darling of the Armory Show satellite fairs,
has commissioned Natalie Kovacs and Victoria Brooks to create site-specific programming for the Tribeca Grand that explores an alternative position to VOLTA NY’s 2009 theme: ‘The Age of Anxiety’. The curators have combined their expertise to create a 3-part exhibition that references historical contexts while offering positive propositions for the future. Concentrating on alternative visions and innovations by artists, designers and filmmakers from the 1950s to now, A New Stance for Tomorrow includes screenings, site-specific design, sound art and performative installation with works by Byron Broadbent, Michel de Broin, Charles & Ray Eames, Tim Etchells, Noam Gonick & Luis Jacob, Claire Hooper, Pierre Joseph & Philippe Parreno, Yves Klein, Oswaldo Macia, Simon Martin, Mathieu Mercier, Alain Resnais, Pia Rönicke, Mika Taanila, and Andrea Zittel.
A New Stance for Tomorrow – Part 1 Cinema programme
The first major piece in A New Stance for Tomorrow will be a series of artists’ film and video screenings to be shown in the Grand Screen screening room at the Tribeca Grand Hotel – a chic art nouveau-style private cinema that hosts a diverse film programme throughout the year, including New York’s A-List Cinema Society film events. The screening programme will be split into two, conceptually focused around the films of Charles and Ray Eames from the 1950s and 1980s. Part 1 concentrates on imaginings and innovations in architecture and the built environment and will explore the relationship of these disciplines to how space is designated and inhabited. Part 2 will concentrate on imaginings and innovations in design, interiors and ways of living and will explore the relationship of these disciplines to how we interact and associate with design, both socially and functionally. The artists, designers and filmmakers included in these programmes in different ways dissolve the boundaries between art, architecture and design whilst creating experimental imaginings and explorations for positive propositions for the future.
A New Stance for Tomorrow – Part 2 Wildflowers of Manitoba mixed-media performative installation
The second major piece, hosted in The Tribeca Grand’s Sanctum, comprises an arresting mixed media work that incorporates film, performance and a domed installation by Noam Gonick and Luis Jacob. Wildflowers of Manitoba is both a utopian vision of an idealistic world and a model or vision of how things to come could be. Blurring fact and fiction they draw on varied historical references from the history of the hippy and radical fairy movements to Gay and Lesbian Culture providing an insight into other potential futures or possibilities.
A New Stance for Tomorrow – Part 3 Soundscape and installation at VOLTA NY 7W
A New Stance for Tomorrow continues in the elevators at 7W – the site of VOLTA NY, opposite the Empire State Building, with a series of artists’ audio projects. Here, Oswaldo Macia’s Tomorrow will be cloudy (2004-7) creates a soundscape that represents all the animals that boarded Noah’s Ark in early 17th century philosopher John Wilkins’ archive. It not only works as an analogy of the current climate crisis and the recent financial ‘crunch’ but also represents a journey into the past and future. Also in the elevators, artist, director and writer Tim Etchells, best known for his work as leader of the renowned performance ensemble, Forced Entertainment, will present Brief Reminder (2006). The declaration/warning is modelled on announcements in public spaces, reflecting the rules and systems in language and in culture and the way in which these systems are both productive and constraining.

Related Installation:
Byron Broadbent’s Cine-Pod – commissioned in response to the exhibition A New Stance for Tomorrow. The model, drawings and film present a future proposition for a new, mobile cinema structure that is at once sculptural and functional. Experimenting with new materials and technologies, the Cine-Pod is a solar-powered cinema made from ‘smart glass’ – a switchable material that transforms from translucent to opaque with the start and end of a screening.

Open Forum
Volta will share its talks programme “Open Forum” with the Armory Show; the one taking place at Volta’s location 7W 345th street is on Friday 5th at 5 p.m.

The Curated Art Fair: Trend or Necessity?
In recent years there has been a growing involvement of curators with art fairs, whether assuming posts as artistic directors, conceiving projects specifically created for a fair or acting as members of a selection committee. Are curatorial practices expanding more and more towards art fairs? If so, to what extent can we speak of a "curated art fair" and an "art fair curator"? Can a curator provide a new perspective or will the actual economical situation herald the retreat of the curator to less commercial spaces. The panel includes personalities who have bridged both worlds, such as a museum director who has worked with art fairs, a curator turned gallerist and an art critic turned art fair director.

David Liss, Artistic Director Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MoCCA), Toronto
Louky Keisers, Director LMAK Projects, New York
Miguel Amado, Free-lance curator and art critic
Amanda Coulson, Executive Director VOLTA
Paco Barragán, Artistic Director CIRCA Puerto Rico and author “The Art Fair Age”

Volta New-York: An interview with Amanda Coulson

Amanda Coulson, Executive Director of Volta Show, answered our questions about the Volta fair, New-York and the challenges faced by the art market.

Do you consider the purchase of Volta by MMPI as a new step/new challenge for the Volta fair or does it remain business as usual?
It’s always a challenge when a small “family run” operation gets absorbed into a large company but we certainly wouldn’t have been able to expand to the U.S. platform so quickly -- and fairly painlessly -- without the support of MMPI and The Armory Show, the entire staff of which was incredibly welcoming and helpful. It’s business as usual in the sense that the core group organizing it have remained in place with the same vision we always had, the Merchandise Mart supports us with logistics and back office, but we can focus on content.

Have you received specific guidelines or recommendations from MMPI? Are you encouraged to coordinate your program with The Armory Show (also owned by MMPI)?
Absolutely not. MMPI does not meddle in artistic decisions about the fair though of course it’s now a serious business and there are expectations and there is oversight. To use an analogy offered to me by a journalist, Steven Kaplan : Volta used to be a small town for which I was mayor, sheriff, garbage collector and dog catcher. But the small town has now been incorporated into the county; I remain the mayor, but the other services are taken care of by county personnel, which gives me more time to be mayor. However, I have to shape up: no more lounging around the spittoon chewin' tobacco with the local yokels. I have to tuck in my shirt and meet my budgets.

Regarding the Armory, we do work very closely together and, of course, to “graduate” from VOLTA to the main fair is a natural progression but it’s not like Katelijne De Backer and I sit around deciding who’s going where like Masters (or Mistresses) of the Universe. We have a very friendly collaboration and part of that is due to the fact that I conceived the NY edition to complement them with the solo projects. We are not in direct competition, doing precisely the same thing as them; we have a very precise focus and profile and we stick to that, but we keep each other au courant of each other’s lists and choices and exchange opinions.

Do you consider single artist booths is a way to give more importance to the artists (even thought there are consequently less artists shown in total) than to the galleries?
Absolutely. Even now people scan the galleries at a fair and make a snap judgement based on their names and where they are based. I’d like people to open their minds to the notion that good art is made everywhere and even a gallery you’ve never heard of might have a good artist in their programme. The fair is a market, of course, but I thought that the solo project concept was a way to make it feel hopefully less like a trade show and more like a kind of exhibition. It’s why we base it loosely around a theme as well.

I suggested to a lot of galleries that they band together to promote an artist work: this was as much for economic reasons as to purposefully encourage a more collaborative feel. It was actually surprising how few galleries – even in this climate—didn’t want that!

Are you concerned by the current art market and, as a consequence, would you consider giving the galleries more flexibility in the organization of their booths if it would enable them to sell more works?
It would be pretty callous of me if I wasn’t concerned. To pretend it is not a huge commitment for a gallery to support a fair at a time like this is really disingenuous. Some fairs give the impression that they are doing the galleries a huge favour by accepting them: yes, a fair can do a lot for a gallery or an artist’s career but there is also a responsibility one has to one’s exhibitors and a bad fair can also break a gallery. But I don’t think a solo project means necessarily harder sales; sometimes a deep exploration o a single artist’s work can be a real asset… at least that’s what many collectors told me at last year’s VOLTA NY. This year though we are having a whole second space as a “Collector’s Lounge”—a kind of storage area where galleries can bring more than they can fit in the booth and even other works.

We started VOLTA as a platform to help galleries reach an audience, the last thing any of us would want is to become a hindrance to continuing business, so I do think a lot about that aspect. Having said that, I believe 100% in our platform: New York is and will always be the epi-centre of the art world. To have a solo project for an emerging artist in a place where you will get both the curatorial boards and the collecting groups of institutions like Dia, MoMA, New Museum, Whitney, Guggenheim, Brooklyn Museum, Sculpture Center … just to name NY institutions! an incredible asset. Then all the galleries that might offer your artist a show; it often changes an artist’s career to get a NY gallery.

What’s the profile of collectors at Volta? Do you think that the development of Volta means that you’re stepping away from young and moderately-wealthy collectors to more established collectors with an eye on emerging artists?
No, not really; I just think the more established are now coming as well, it doesn’t mean they are pushing any one out. The art is not changing… As some galleries mature they progress to The Armory or Art Basel. We’ve had a large number do so already and that allows us to keep bringing in new galleries or different artists. VOLTA’s not a place to come and see the “greatest hits,” it’s the place to make discoveries so I think the audience might get bigger but remain a group with the same interests: to look at emerging art.

Do you already see consequences of the economic environment prior to the fair (number of applicants, experiences of galleries, countries of origin of the galleries, experience of the artists shown at Volta, etc…)?
Yes and no. We had the same number of application for Basel and that was well after the crash started… even more applications came in way after the deadline and after Miami. There are some galleries who are cautious or scared but for each one of them is someone who sees crisis as opportunity. So, what I’ve seen is a shift but by no means an all-out decline or run for cover. Certainly the U.S. galleries are having a much harder time than their European counterparts mainly because the good ol’ “Old Europe” economy that everyone used to make fun of for being “sluggish” means, indeed, there are not the extreme highs but also not the extreme lows. I’m not saying there isn’t a recession, but it’s not a full-scale bloodbath and—surprisingly-- there are even signs already of a pick-up in the art market according to a lot of galleries I talk to regularly in Europe.

Is Volta NY intentionally more business-focused than Volta Basel? What are the differences between Volta NY and Volta Basel? How important is the influence of New-York (biggest art market in the world, permanent presence of the biggest collectors in NY, major artists as well as buoyant emerging art scene) over Volta NY?
No. In some ways I might even say the opposite, going back to the point I made above about the sheer number of institutions in the Greater New York area (and beyond)!! NY isn’t just about the market because it has a very strong curatorial backbone… Still, Basel might not have a gallery or institutional scene as rich as NY but it is the Mecca of the art world so thousands flock there—especially in a Biennale year like this one—so the exposure one gets not just to collectors but to curators, critics and observers is huge. Being so central in Europe is also a factor and particularly being so close to the German-speaking countries, which have such a high percentage of contemporary art institutions and collectors. Really both have a good balance between market and other factors, which is precisely why they are such successful venues.

There are differences between VOLTA Basel and NY but it’s more about how we approach the fair and what we think it brings to each cities scene: I don’t believe that VOLTA should juts go anywhere there is an overflow: London, Berlin, Miami… our idea is to really fulfil a function. In Basel that function was very specific to the time and place where it was born: when Liste had an age-limit (even for the artists!!) and a limit on the amount of times you could do the fair (which changed since the arrival of VOLTA) and in a city where the main fair gives half it’s floor-space over to Modern. Conversely, in NY, we came in a year that Armory was contemporary only, so we had to react to that, to think about what we could offer that was different from everything else and possibly even needed. So the fairs definitely have a different slant and flavor.


Address: 7W 34th Street, 11th Floor. NY 10001 New York USA
Dates: March 5th- 8th , 2009
Vernissage: March 5th, 11 am - 1 pm
Admission: Regular US$ 15 Reduced US$ 10
The Armory Show + VOLTA NY Combination Pass: US$ 40