Scoping Out Scope
By Robert Ayers
Published: March 26, 2008
NEW YORK—This is the seventh time around for Scope New York, and the outfit has come a long way. Since its inception in 2002, the event has spawned sister fairs in Miami, L.A., the Hamptons, London, and Basel and, as this latest manifestation at Lincoln Center makes obvious, has firmly established its own identity: Scope art tends to be representational but also witty, quirky as well as irreverent; the artists tend to be young, the gallerists up-and-coming. In short, instead of blue-chip, think blue suede shoes.
Scope’s chutzpah — and what other word better reflects a decision to hold a VIP session in direct competition with the Armory Show’s — stems partly from the fact that the fair boasts a core of committed gallerists. Mike Weiss, for example, is a Scope stalwart who does particularly well at the fairs. This afternoon he told me that because he contacts his regular clients by email in advance of the opening, he had already sold something like 75 percent of his booth before it was even hung. Kudos to him for not bringing the same old artists, then. He is showing one of his stars this year, Yigal Ozeri, whose delectable and faintly erotic canvases have collectors waiting for the artist to complete them, but he has also brought three new faces to the table: Martin C. Herbst, who paints weird, monochromatic, reflected characters on three-dimensional polished steel forms; the exuberantly painterly Allison Schulnik; and perhaps most striking of all, Christian Vincent, whose crowds of nubile young women in Capture seem to have strayed out of a social-realist orgy.
Another regular is Toronto’s Katharine Mulherin, back for her seventh Scope. Among the artists she brought this time is Rob MacInnis, whose wonderful photographic suite Farm Family 1 is available for $3,500. Only two remain from the edition of 10. Lincart gallery, from San Francisco, is also a Scope old-timer, and here, among a wide-ranging group of artists, they have Graham Gillmore, whose delightfully undisciplined word painting Fly by Night is available for $24,000.
One of the Scope trademarks over the years has been the expansion of the fair beyond the booths, and in fact beyond the tent as well, with projects commissioned by the Scope Foundation. The commissioned pieces this year include Johnston Foster’s hilarious installation What the Flock?!, which hangs above the entrance. Comprising 100 cartoon-like seagulls cobbled together from scrap materials, the work celebrates the schoolboy urban myth that links seagulls and Alka Seltzer — and indeed, ten of the birds are exploding.
Similarly humorous but far more provocative is the Duchampian installation One Hundred Dollar, for which a group of artists who call themselves Invisible Heroes has framed and displayed a numbered sequence of 100 brand-new dollar bills. The piece has already begun causing a polite riot, as the individual bills are for sale at prices ranging from minus $100 (not surprisingly, that one had gone to a collector before the artists even got to New York) right up to a sweet $4,500,000! With my natural inclination toward all things Dadaist, I bought the one that I thought most closely matched the value of the bill plus the frame: $40. I shall not be claiming this amount back from ARTINFO.
Perhaps since the weather gods were kind — resulting in a Scope tent that was neither a gloomy fridge like last year nor the energy-sapping sauna that it can become in Miami, Tuesday afternoon seemed to boast the opening of a particularly happy fair. There was also satisfaction among the exhibitors that the number of booths had been reduced and a general feeling that, as a result, things were less frenetic and the work was of an overall higher standard. (They would say that, wouldn’t they?) But it is true that there is some smashing work at this year’s fair. Check out Bahk Seon-Ghi’s Charcoal Installation, a ghostly suspended staircase made from charcoal fragments, which is going for $75,000 at Krampf; David Fried’s mesmerizing, sound-activated kinetic sculpture (from his “Self Organizing Still-Life (SOS)” project) at Sara Tecchia, which will cost you $26,500; near the lower end of the Scope price range, Karlos Carcamo’s Art in America series, with individual pieces that cost $1,600 each at Dean Project; or, at the same booth, Russell Biles’s charming representation of Scooby Doo and his crew: for $16,000, you can grab five hand-built ceramic sculptures of the gang using their own toilets.
By Robert Ayers