The third year of the Seattle Art Fair brings 100 exhibitors from Europe, Asia and North America. Attendees will find some big names, but the fun is in the discovery.
Andy Warhol was there. So were Edvard Munch, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. I’m talking about their work, of course. But the real excitement of the Seattle Art Fair springs from making fresh discoveries. And with an unprecedented 100 exhibitors from Europe, Asia and North America setting up booths at the 2017 fair, there are plenty of discoveries to be made. 55 Bellechasse Gallery (Paris/Miami) devoted its entire space to Paris-based Iranian photographer Niloufar Banisadr. Her striking self-portrait series, “Mes Voyages/My Travel,” consists of ghostly images of the artist in a hijab but with her midriff exposed, posed against iconic Eastern and Western backdrops, including some gloriously soaring European cathedral naves. Her series “Sexy Windows” — the French title is “Voiles aux Vents” (“Veils in the Wind”) — captures an apartment-building window’s sheer drapes billowing into all sorts of sensual shapes. At Gamo Galleries (Seoul), Park Sung-Tae makes a vivid impression with his eerie works “Boy” and “Dawn.” Their ghostly mesh figures loom from inside ornate white frames, a little like Jaume Plensa pieces taking a Dorian Gray turn. Klein Sun Gallery, a New York gallery specializing in contemporary Chinese art, highlights several striking artists. Photographer Ji Zhou’s “The Map No. 2” constructs a mountainous landscape from road maps. Chow Chun Fai’s oils on canvas riff on Hong Kong melodramas. Yang Shaobin’s gorgeous sapphire-blue-drenched paintings counterintuitively depict riotous police confrontations. Of the big names who deliver surprises, Britain’s Damien Hirst at Other Criteria (New York/London) packs the biggest punch. His foilblock prints of butterflies, “The Souls,” are enchanting, while his “Eat the Rich” silkscreen-and-Braille series lampoons pharmaceutical packaging labels by incorporating unlikely ingredients (“Crash,” “Fight,” “Anarchy,” etc.) in their stated content. On the regional front, Winchester Galleries (Victoria, B.C.) and Russo Lee Gallery (Portland) make exceptionally strong showings. Winchester features both American and Canadian artists. Tacoma painter Jeremy Mangan’s huge visions of doomed edifices (one is titled “Never Meant to Last”) have an elegiac-apocalyptic grandeur to them. Two of Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard’s ceramic-like painted bronzes are small-scale nudes of artists Lucian Freud and Egon Schiele, while his startlingly realistic painted bronze “Mahihkan” (Cree for “wolf”) stands as tall as a horse. Painter Marianna Gartner’s series of boys “with flowers for brains” puts the “real” in surreal. These boys, though a bit archival-looking, are photo-precise, as are the flowers sprouting from their noggins. You just don’t usually see the two in this configuration. The stars of Russo Lee are Samantha Wall, whose meticulous graphite-and-conté-crayon-on-paper drawings (especially “Second Sight”) are downright visionary, and Jo Hamilton, whose mixed crocheted-yarn creations are both wacky and virtuosic. From Seattle itself, Greg Kucera Gallery features dazzling new work from illusionist-in-wood Dan Webb and wizardly photographer Chris Engman (they’ll be paired in a show at Kucera this fall). Foster/White devotes its whole space to the art-history-allusive virtuosity of painter Sarah McRae Morton. And Traver Gallery collaborates with Koplin Del Rio in showcasing the wild world of Mexican brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre, ranging from glass creations they made at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass last week to eye-bending experiments with lenticular prints and LED lightboxes. One man’s pointillism is another man’s poison, of course, and your Seattle Art Fair highlights may not overlap with mine at all. But that’s the whole fun of this vast enterprise.