Friday, April 27, 2007

ArtDC, Washington’s first modern art fair, could be an exotic Middle Eastern bazaar. There are more sights and sounds here than in any of the city’s galleries.

It’s easy to see here why buyers have come to favor fairs over galleries — they see more art in one place in a glamorous ambience.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon with many advantages,” says Andrea Pollan, director of Washington’s Curator’s Office gallery, an innovative merging of work- and exhibition space.

Moreover, show organizers predict about 10,000 will have attended its display at the Washington Convention Center’s Hall E by Monday’s closing.

Visitors will experience art from 80 galleries around the globe showing current paintings, prints, sculpture, photography and new media works — and today’s art pluralism couldn’t be more obvious.

Art aficionados “go to see and to be seen,” as the show’s organizers write, and hobnob with the international art world’s movers and shakers.

Anthony T. Podesta, the city’s leading forward-looking art collector, says it’s a prime opportunity for out-of-town collectors to meet local ones and vice versa.

“Visitors can also see what’s going on with local artists as well,” he adds.

So, who put together all these benefits?

Show director and Miami resident Ilana Vardy (an art fair organizer of Hungarian descent) — with 20 shows since 1991 under her belt — says she emphasizes art that’s considered new and on the edge.

Among the many avant-garde shows, she chose “Another Look: New Art From Shanghai,” a pavilion of 12 artists from the Shanghai area, as a focus.

It’s an example of what Mr. Podesta calls “the thirst for China’s hot new art.” Yet Chinese-Canadian curator Liu Jian says he concentrated on showing examples of art’s diversity in that part of China.

In addition to “Another Look,” Miss Vardy has included the following areas to highlight:

m “New Media,” offering videos, interactive installations, digital and sound works by galleries specializing in these media.

m “SLICE,” presenting work by emerging, cutting-edge artists not usually shown.

m A unique “Video Lounge and Bar” — as called by the fair — showing juried video and Internet art projects by regional artists.

m “Perpetual Art Machine” (PAM), which is being described as “a living archive of 21st-century international video art.”

Miss Vardy also has taken advantage of what she calls “Washington’s cultural treasures” with ArTalks and special museum tours. ArTalks features panels and lectures by museum and gallery directors and curators as well as artists. Visitors can look for schedules on

In addition, viewers will find as many “spices of art” here as they would of food in any international bazaar. One is Marietta, Ga.’s Avisca Fine Art, which pushes work by American black artists and those of African and Caribbean descent. Among its regularly shown arts are such works as Francks Deceus’ colorful mixed media “Untitled.”

By contrast, Augusta, Ga.’s Mary Pauline Gallery calls itself “a pillar of contemporary arts in the growing arts community.” Its gleaming bronze sculpted “Dictame” by Polles is typical of its offerings.

From the District comes Curator’s Office’s “Charlette,” a digital pigment print by Jason Horowitz and “Unlimited 2 Mimicry Series,” a C-print by Noah Angell of a man holding a bottle.

Also from the Washington area is Pyramid Atlantic, a nonprofit arts center devoted to hand papermaking, printmaking, digital arts and the art of the book. Typical of Pyramid’s production is Michael Platt’s haunting digital “Untitled” print of transparent fabric draped over a female nude.

Another gallery, this time in the United Kingdom, is the Steps Gallery. The bizarre “RMXXXVIII Rwandan Woman,” perhaps a face in glistening chains, was created by Juliet Rose.

Liu Jian’s “New Art From Shanghai” pavilion may be the fair’s most interesting. Trained both in Canada and the United States, he produces art that is a commanding combination of U.S. abstract-expressionism and Chinese brush painting.

In a Washington, D.C., interview, Mr. Jian says he purposely didn’t pick out what many collectors consider “hot Chinese art,” but chose more classic “name” artists such as ceramicist Xu Qun.

Mr. Jian says Xu Qun, the most famous living ceramic artist in China, made the small, all-white, many-pieced “Untitled.”

Now, finally, with these myriad arts in ArtDC, the nation’s art capital has its own art bazaar. It shouldn’t be missed.


WHERE: Hall E, Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW

WHEN: 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday

TICKETS: $12 for general admission, $9 for groups of 10 or more, $6 for seniors and students, and free for children younger than 12


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