The opening of the SITE Sante Fe Biennial has taken turns with the ART Santa Fe International Contemporary Art Fair as one of the chief anchors of the big week, as the fair has also been a biennial event, but on alternating years with SITE. For the past five years, the Folk Art Market has thrown its increasingly heavy weight into the game as well, either happening in concert over one main weekend or bookending the week with one of the two contemporary events. For many citizens and visitors, this conglomeration of events has become larger and more broad-based than the traditional giants of summer, such as the Indian and Spanish markets.
This year was the first following ART Santa Fe’s decision to move to an annual platform, and the fair had a successful showing over the weekend of July 12 and 13, in conjunction with the Folk Art Market.
SITE Santa Fe opted to open last month, allowing for some moderate recovery between its events and the two-pronged art and craft shopping bonanza of the contemporary fair and the folk market. SITE will deny moving its biennial to accommodate the schedule of this year’s curator, Lance Fung, who is also arranging an exhibition in Beijing in conjunction with the summer Olympics, but it did. Next year, we’ll have ART Santa Fe and the Folk Art Market in tandem once again and the year after that I’m willing to bet all three events run more or less concurrently, which is probably enough to fund construction of at least one more stupidly large hotel.
The buzz around town is that ART Santa Fe and the City of Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) do not get along—which means that ART Santa Fe may house itself at El Museo Cultural’s beneficial Railyard location for the foreseeable future—and the potential is there for another major event to occur simultaneously in the new convention center. If that does happen, let’s hope improvements at El Museo continue. The infrastructure has been upgraded, but the interior aesthetics, sweet weeping Jesus, the interior aesthetics…
Aesthetics are, however, improving among the fair participants. The jury was more focused than ever before and the galleries represented are improving in quality over the hodgepodge that has sometimes occurred in previous years. The decision to move to an annual event was only made in the immediate wake of last year’s fair. Considering the excellent job that Charlotte Jackson and her crew did this year, next year’s effort has a relatively high bar to meet.
As usual, the project space component of the fair was a highlight, with the most intriguing and least commercial work. Best in show goes to Daniel Borins and Jennifer Marman, whose collaborative works fuse art historical memes with modern technology and materials with dry, particularly incisive wit. No medium escapes their delicate wrath. The Canadian couple has strong ties to Santa Fe and one can only wonder why no local organizations have seriously vied for inclusion on their increasingly busy exhibition schedule.
ART Santa Fe Presents, the fair’s nonprofit arm, which last year ambitiously arranged both an architectural façade competition and the dual Lensic appearance by former Guggenheim head Thomas Krens and architect Frank Gehry, this year more modestly presented Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum, which will open in Denver in 2010.
Sobel’s lecture, wisely assigned to the smaller St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art, was nonetheless woefully under-attended. That’s a shame, because although Krens and Gehry were a true coup for the art fair, the net effect of that sold-out lecture—especially in contrast with the sparse audience for Sobel—was to prove that we are a city of star fuckers rather than a city compelled by intellectual curiosity.
Sobel was nervous, flawed and excellent. He delivered an enlightened story of recent art history and a relevant parable of how a mayor with cojones (and some actual legal authority), can augment a cultural renaissance in a city like Denver. Where Gehry’s presence and the persistent allusions to a new building in Santa Fe amounted to an architectural tease, Sobel’s thoughts on the development of the Clyfford Still Museum were genuine food for thought with regional relevance.
The Folk Art Festival, for its part, continues to grow and succeed in spectacular fashion. There is little to say about such a popular and well-received event that also manages to so charitably enable indigenous craftspeople in 41 countries. It is a bit mind-boggling to speculate on the aesthetic direction of international craft due to the tastes of largely New Mexican shoppers, but the only real criticism I can level is this:
Why can I only get Ethiopian food in Santa Fe for one damn weekend of the entire year?