Three-night stand

    As art fairs proliferate across the country, there are more opportunities for artists, dealers, curators and gallery owners to network on a national level than ever before. These fairs beg the question: What is the impact of such events?

    Portland has its own gala known as the Affair, hosted at the Jupiter Hotel, where over 30 galleries will present new works in their very own hotel room. For this distinctive weekend, 40 of the hotel rooms at the sleek Jupiter Hotel will be transformed into exhibition venues for galleries spanning the West Coast as well as Atlanta, New York and Chicago.

    Now in its third year, the returning galleries are primarily from the Northwest: Greg Kucera from Seattle, PDX Contemporary from Portland, and Gregory Lind from San Francisco. The Affair is increasing its breadth this year to include more national galleries such as Katharine Mulherin Contemporary from Toronto, Trillium Press from Berkeley, and Lemon Sky Projects from Miami. By bringing in critical eyes to the Portland art scene as well as expanding the ripple that surrounds what is going on in Portland, this festival will have a significant impact on our rapidly expanding art scene.

In addition to the mainstay galleries there will be a number of new curatorial projects at this year’s Affair, including a series of photographs titled Shadow Chamber by Roger Ballen as well as a site-specific project called Paul Butler’s Collage Party. New this year will be video works screened during the weekend, starting with a screening of 24 Hour Three Stooges by Paul Collins from 7 p.m. on Friday to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 and continuing on Sunday from 12 ?” 7 p.m. with a program of video screenings selected by guest curators.

    The Affair is intentionally small in contrast to the larger art festivals such as the Armory Show in New York and Art Basel in Miami. “The Affair is an alternative to the big art fairs that focus on business at the expense of personal connections,” said co-organizer Laurel Gitlen.

    Last year I saw for myself that this was true when I ran into more people who I knew from places such as Houston, Los Angeles and New York at the Affair than any other single event in Portland. One of the best aspects of this event is that there is actually time to talk with people at the Affair in depth about art – yet another reason why I left the East Coast for the better quality of life in the Pacific Northwest.

    Although art fairs are traditionally more of a commercial enterprise, the Affair purports to engage society on a deeper level. Saul Ostrow, a participant in the 2004 fair, states that “art fairs, beyond their economic impact on a community, have in recent years become important educational and cultural events.” Unfortunately, one of the best learning opportunities during last year’s fair, the panel discussion with curators from across the country, will not be continued this year. The Affair will certainly be a vibrant gathering for artists, curators and gallerists, but whether or not it will become a significant cultural forum remains to be determined.