The Au Courant Daily Journal | Thoughts on Art Fairs and Resonance, Post-Frieze London 2017


As the goodly Brits would say, it's been done and dusted. But I am not a goodly Brit, and thus I feel a sense of incompleteness as I think back to the weekend's affairs at Frieze London. I get that shows like Frieze, for all the novelty and glitz, are actually market places for driving the global economy. Not too far behind the alluring facade, the focus is placed squarely on selling works at high prices, on reinforcing the legacy of art-world superstars, and on shoring up goodwill - and money - behind new hopefuls. 

Still, given how removed and divisive said art-world can be along a variety of markers, I wondered at the ongoing appeal of art shows for any collector outside the tiny, uber-moneyed plutocrat sect; for visual artists like myself; and also for the wider public of art enthusiasts. I suppose any self respecting creative should be very much concerned with the goings-on at art fairs, but to what extent? 

I attended Frieze this year out of curiousity, to simply observe what was being shown. It's the same reason that others I know routinely attend, let's say, a psychology conference for their subgroup, even if they aren't presenting research. In other words, if one is an active member of a group, one needs to regularly show up and be counted amongst the following. Or better yet, one needs to actively participate. 

A notion that, in relation to art fairs, gives me pause.

When the gatekeepers (and there are always gatekeepers) use whatever rationale or metric to demarcate their groups, to decide upon which galleries, which artists, what kinds of work, and in what volume, are displayed for such events, how are we to know - to trust - their selection as a true representation of the best of what's available in art, at any given time?

Surely, this process is contingent upon meeting demands that may have little to do with the inherent value of a work, and more with meeting or surpassing a projected list price; how does such a narrow process truly benefit all the parties involved? How does it advance the exposure of new movements, new artistic ideals - how does it facilitate the inevitable changing of the guards, as it were? 

Machel Montano, a Trinbagonian soca star comes to mind in this regard. He's quite popular in Caribbean and some global circles, and has been a soca star for the majority of his life.

He knows his group quite well.

Over the decades he has become rather adept at releasing good soca tunes for each Carnival - tunes that his camp are certain will be the massive ones for the season. He drills them into the public's consciousness through elaborately staged concert appearances, through elaborate advertisements for the concert appearances, through round-the-clock, PAYOLA-style bombardment of his songs on the local Trinidad radio-stations. And now, through all arms of social media.

It's a Machel Montano all-day, all-night effect around a handful of tracks that essentially drowns out any sound from would-be competitors for the small bit of Carnival season limelight.

And yet, it is almost always his last tune, the throwaway, jam-and-wine tune released at the umpteenth hour, or the strange, unnoticed song that's been out for months with no previous airtime which suddenly becomes the monster runaway hit. My favourite such song of his, is Water Flowing from his days leading the mega-band, Xtatic

For all our angling, isn't it always the most unlikeliest of things that often resonate the deepest? 


 The Au Courant Daily Journal | Thoughts on Art Fairs and Resonance, Post-Frieze London 2017


Words & Images | Lisa-Marie Harris
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