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Book Review: Art Fare


Book Review Art Fare By Andy Freeberg Reviewed by David Ondrik Andy Freeberg’s second monograph, Art Fare, is a typology of the interminable and ubiquitous art fairs that are now an entrenched part of the contemporary art market. The homophone title works as a wonderfully to-the-point artist statement: art entertainment is art money.

Art Fare. By Andy Freeberg.
Sojourn Books, 2014.
 
Art Fare
Reviewed by David Ondrik

Art Fare
Photographs by Andy Freeberg
Sojourn Books, 2014. 88 pp., 42 color illustrations, 11x14".


Andy Freeberg’s second monograph, Art Fare, is a typology of the interminable and ubiquitous art fairs that are now an entrenched part of the contemporary art market. The homophone title works as a wonderfully to-the-point artist statement: art entertainment is art money. The photography is well done, although like all typologies shooting the subject in a consistent, analytical manner trumps other concerns. There are a few clever compositions, like where installers look to be holding back the crush of an anxious mob, or where an artist’s head is almost literally stuck up his own naked posterior. How a viewer responds to the images will depend more on how they respond to art fairs than any quality of the photography itself. Each picture of sales booths staffed with gallery owners, assistants, and the art they’re hocking are presented as “walk-by shootings.” They can’t really be spontaneous since Freeberg would need to acquire model releases and convince the artists to agree to have their art appear in the pictures. It’s entirely possible the behind the scenes legal wrangling was an extremely complicated part of this project.

Art Fare. By Andy Freeberg. Sojourn Books, 2014.
Art Fare. By Andy Freeberg. Sojourn Books, 2014.

Overwhelmingly the booths are cold, sterile, brightly lit and staffed by largely apathetic looking attendants. Nobody is having a good time at these fairs, probably because serious money is on the line — Art Basel can cost a gallery over $120,000 when all is done. Although the galleries’ own brand is also for sale, the booths and attendants are nondescript and interchangeable. The men mostly wear dark suits; the thin women with long hair wear elegant dresses. Many are consumed in their electronic devices and it’s impossible to tell if you’re in sunny Miami, neutral Switzerland, or hip New York. The art for sale is flashy bright shazam! that shows the surreal aesthetic of the blue chip art market. One of the more incisive images is of the Ferran Cano booth at Art Miami — two wrapped shipping crates sit to the right of a table with stacked transparent chairs, leaving the viewer to wonder if the crates are the art, or if they’re shipping containers yet to be unpacked.

Art Fare. By Andy Freeberg. Sojourn Books, 2014.
Art Fare. By Andy Freeberg. Sojourn Books, 2014.

The brief, accessible, essay by W.M. Hunt of Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery doesn’t’t so much shine new light on the photography as it points out Mr. Hunt’s awkward position. He seems to believe that this business is strange, but pulls back each time he begins to excoriate the industry. Certainly he can’t be too rough on himself or his colleagues without business ramifications, so he’s left to nod and wink, speculate if they should be embarrassed about all of this. In the end, Art Fare is a compelling body of photography that will provoke plenty of conversation about the moneyed state of contemporary art.—DAVID ONDRIK


DAVID ONDRIK is an artist, high school art teacher, and writer who grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and now lives in Portland, Oregon. http://www.artisdead.net.

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