In 2007 Starkwhite applied for the Statements section of the venerable Art Basel art fair, the first time the gallery had applied to participate in a fair. It was a long shot and to our surprise we were accepted with a project by artist Dane Mitchell. Starkwhite was then accepted into the even loftier (and even costlier) Unlimited section. Over the next 13 years the gallery program was focused on fairs, working with artists we believe belong on the international stage.
Several million dollars of fees later, along with endless international travel, over 2 million fair visitors – half of them touching works – and some truly exciting and important art works, artists, and booths, art fairs have been instrumental in the success of the artists we work with and the gallery as a whole. They have been tremendous fun and introduced us to some wonderful friends and colleagues. They have also been draining.
In 2019 political upheavals in Hong Kong had us questioning the future of Art Basel Hong Kong, a mainstay of our program. That debate was quickly overwhelmed by a global pandemic which forced the entire art fair roller coaster to come to shuddering halt. Next came endless postponements and rescheduling, before the inevitable cancellation was announced. And then the Online Viewing Rooms (OVRs) appeared. They are still with us. As are the postponements.
So now in February 2021 we’re excited to be involved in the upcoming Auckland Art Fair. A credit to New Zealand’s COVID response (I hope I don’t curse it), this will be one of the first art fairs to emerge since the pandemic. Although greatly reduced in numbers and absent of any international visitors, it is an art fair nonetheless. A visceral mix of real people in the same space looking at real art and talking to other real people about it. We are grateful for this.
Beyond this, we are all still trying to work out what international art fairs post-COVID will look like. I suspect we have at least another year to consider this.
Starkwhite will present NOT ANOTHER ART FAIR from 24 February – 20 April. Bringing our international art fair program to Auckland, we’re re-staging key art fair works including Dane Mitchell, Conjuring Form (Art Basel Statements 2008), Rebecca Baumann, Automated Colour Field (V3) (Art Basel Hong Kong Encounters 2014), John Reynolds, One Hand Read (Art Contemporary Los Angeles, 2010), Gordon Walters, Untitled (Art Basel Hong Kong 2014), Fiona Pardington, Matoua Tawai (Art Basel Hong Kong 2016) and Michael Zavros, Untitled (Art Basel Hong Kong 2015). Also on display is Yuk King Tan’s Crisis of the Ordinary selected for Encounters, the curated section of Art Basel Hong Kong 2020, which did not go ahead.
The exhibition highlights Starkwhite’s history with art fairs, while providing the starting point to further address the role of art fairs post-COVID. There will be no OVR.
Dominic Feuchs, Starkwhite Director
Press release courtesy Starkwhite.