Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TIAF Trouble: Gallery Dropouts for '09

I'm looking forward to a day at the Toronto International Art Fair this weekend, particularly the Art Publishing in the Digital Age panel happening 2pm on Saturday with the Guardian's Adrian Searle and e-flux's Anton Vidokle. (Seriously, I think only an art writer could be as excited as I am about seeing these two guys chat on this topic. Happily nerding out over here...)

However, I wanted to note there's some serious gallery dropout at TIAF this year. Though the numbers don't totally reflect it--commercial exhibitors are at 92 this year compared to 106 last year--some pretty prominent dealers, especially from the West, have ixnayed participation this year. These include super-top Vancouver gallerist Catriona Jeffries, as well as respected Vancity galleries Winsor, Equinox and Monte Clark (though the latter of which will be partly repped by Toronto's Clark & Faria). Also conspicuously absent, to my mind, is Calgary's Trepanier Baer, who I usually look forward to seeing given their representation of Evan Penny and Chris Millar, among others.

To me this is a sad, if understandable, turn of events. I definitely am aware that commercial galleries, particularly in a fair setting, are not the last word in contemporary art. But TIAF is one of the few chances in Canada to (theoretically) see what dealers across the country are showing and believing in. And the West, a huge part of that national equation, seems to be largely absent this year--Blanket's providing the sole Vancouver rep far as I can tell, I'm not counting Bau-Xi because they have a Toronto branch. Also, there's zero galleries from Edmonton or Calgary, since Douglas Udell is also absent this time around.

I would hope, if only for my selfish, non-airmiles-flush self, that this 2009 pattern reverses itself in years to come.

Interestingly, I note that travel to Canadian art fairs (as well as international) is supported by the Canada Council's pilot program for Assistance to Professional Canadian Contemporary Art Dealers, with the list of 2008 grantees available here. (Even more interestingly, Jeffries is among the grantees, though the monies can be used for catalogues and for international travel too, helpful given Jeffries is in at Art Basel Miami in December.)

Still, part of me thinks the market probably needs to recover more to make even grant-covered gallery travel worthwhile. What do you think? Am I lamenting what is actually a good thing (a blow to the "evil art-fair system")? Am I too "I Want the West In"? Let me know.

Image from an artist we likely won't see at TIAF--Ryan Sluggett, who is repped by Trepanier Baer. This work is Fake Lake 2007 from Canadianart.ca


sharlen said...

nice picture .....thx.

Leah Sandals said...

Yep, you can check out the rest of Sluggett's work at Trepanier Baer's site.