Fountain Art Fair in Chicago: An Interview with Elizabeth Tully

September 10, 2013 · Print This Article

fountain_nyc_2013

Fountain New York 2013, photo by Kendra Heisler

In about a week the city of Chicago will be upturned with contemporary art fervor. The art fair, EXPO Chicago, returns for its second year, along with a satellite, Fountain Art Fair. Already the city is buzzing with preparations. In the midst of all this I had a chance to email with Elizabeth Tully, Fountain Art Fair’s official Producer, about the history and aesthetic of the organization along with what we might expect at Fountain.

Caroline Picard: Can you talk a little bit about the history of Fountain Art Fair? What is Fountain’s ideology?

Elizabeth Tully: Fountain was started in 2006 as a platform for three galleries (Capla Kesting Fine Art, McCaig Welles Gallery and Front Room Gallery) to access collectors, curators and critics during the New York Armory weekend.  We have grown to represent over 100 international galleries, artists and collectives.  Our model is “alternative” because we give free-reign to our exhibitors, and are not exclusive to just galleries, or just independent artists.  Our mission is for people to come to Fountain and connect with whats happening inside through installations and performances that engage visitors and push boundaries.  Of course, people want to sell art, and they do.  But the overall vibe is one of community and goodwill as opposed to commercial frenzy.

CP: How do you facilitate a community vibe? 

ET: There is something special that happens when the Fountain Team gets together, and all the exhibitors show up.  I’m sure part of it is the type of art we showcase tends to bring in exhibitors that are open-minded and down for adventure (and the Fountain Team certainly personifies that as well) People start installing their art, checking out their neighbors, borrowing ladders, lending drills, etc.  The energy is palpable and really starts to build, by opening day its reached a fever pitch.  That sense of “we’re all in this together” is really what Fountain is all about.  For Chicago especially, we are working with Johalla Projects as our partner out there.  They have been incredible, making connections and fostering relationships to help get this show off the ground and build a new Fountain community in Chicago. I think visitors can feel that goodwill when they come, and its something we take a lot of pride in.

946600_10151673596988653_1920121232_n

David Kesting Presents: Brian Leo, Fountain New York 2013, photo by Kendra Heisler

CP: What was it like shifting the fair from something created as a satellite to the Armory, in NY, to a fair that travelled? 

ET: Fountain has always operated as a satellite to these larger fairs (Armory, Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Platform Los Angeles).  Our purpose is to provide a platform for these alternative spaces to showcase their work during these major weekends, but as an affordable art fair, our budget is always tight. The challenge is to keep the show affordable while still creating an environment that is going to be conducive to our clients selling art. Working as a satellite allows us to take advantage of opportunities created by the large shows and the audience they attract.  It also gives us the freedom to explore new markets in new cities, and bring Fountain’s particular brand of art + vibes around the world. CP: This is related, I think, to the last question — but your name, Fountain and logo, point back to the infamous Duchampian urinal. Is that a moment in art history that the fair is particularly inspired by? And what bearing does it have on the contemporary art fair model? ET: Just as people were shocked by Duchamp’s Fountain, we aim to bring that refreshing spirit into everything we do.  We want visitors to engage with art they wouldn’t normally be open to, and break from the things they have seen at all the other fairs.  This spirit of “art for art’s sake” is at the heart of the Duchamp/DADA paradigm.

russel_young_fountain

Russell Young silkscreening at Fountain Miami 2009, photo by Rachel Esterday

CP: Do you have an example of a work or a couple of works from Fountain that managed to turn your audience’s heads? 

ET: Where do I even start??!  Over the years there have been some amazing moments that have happened at Fountain.  Many of them center around the performance programming, which has been curated by Bushwick-based Grace Exhibition Space for the past few years. They invited a world-renowned group of artists from Estonia called Non Grata to Miami in 2010 that resulted in a car almost being blown up!  Non Grata returned to Miami this past December with incredible programming involving live branding. (See photos attached). During my first Miami show in 2009, I remember Russell Young pulling silkscreens live using viles of his own blood.  I remember watching him, disturbed but so intrigued.  It was a defining Fountain moment for me. New York 2012 exhibitors Creamhotel also brought in an amazing performance involving aerialist Seanna Sharpe and her team suspended from the ceiling of the Armory, 130′ above the crowd.  Watching that with a couple of thousand people on the floor was breathtaking, we were all just looking up with our mouths hanging open. Performance art for this show will be curated by chicago-based performance space and I’m really excited to see what they bring! We will be announcing the lineup next week.

fountain_nongrata_fire

Non Grata burns a car at Fountain Miami 2010, photo by Beached Miami

CP: How do you encourage your galleries to be experimental? Is it simply the result of the ecology you have developed over the years — for instance do you all try and work exclusively with galleries prized for their experimentation — or do galleries apply with specific projects in mind, projects that you vet from your end? 

ET: I think its a little bit of both.  Fountain has a reputation for showcasing progressive, sometimes challenging work, so we do attract exhibitors who like to think outside the box.  I love when potential exhibitors reach out to us with a wild idea(examples above), bringing all the elements together to help them realize that vision is, for me, one of the best parts of producing a show like this.

CP: What brings Fountain to Chicago? 

ET: Fountain staged an exhibition in Chicago back in 2007, and we have been waiting for the right time to return.  We were very excited to see EXPO Chicago launch in 2012, signaling a renaissance in the Chicago market.  Then this spring, our now-partners at Johalla Projects reached out to us about organizing an alternative fair during EXPO week.  There were so many amazing, progressive spaces in Chicago who were interested in participating in a fair, but there was no fair to represent them.  The timing was finally right and everything has been clicking into place. We are excited to showcase our unique take on whats happening in Chicago, Brooklyn and beyond!

seannasharpe_fountain

Seanna Sharpe aerial performance, Fountain New York 2012, photo by Morgan Reede.

CP: Often I feel like fairs inadvertently reflect a trending icon or strategy — like a deer’s head cropped up repeatedly at the last Chicago Merchandise Mart fair, for instance, last year several galleries at EXPO featured paintings with holes or tears in the canvas — are there any trends you anticipate this year at Fountain?

ET:  I suppose there may be a trend towards accessibility in art.  If that’s the case, I’m glad we’re on the front lines! I think more and more people are realizing that it is possible to have fun with art, and that they can bring amazing, original work into their home or office without breaking the bank.  That’s a beautiful thing, for both the artists and art-lovers.

CP: You all are planning a benefit for the DIA, I believe. Can you talk about how that decision came about? 

ET: We were alarmed by reports of Christie’s valuing the DIA’s collection and the possibility of these works being hawked to pay off the city’s debt.  Fountain co-Founder David Kesting has a long-time affinity towards the City of Detroit and the DIA.  We believe that these works have been given in trust to the people of the Detroit and that legacy must be upheld.  By pledging to funds from our VIP Preview day, we hope to ensure that this conversation continues, and that support builds momentum.

An Interview about Interviews: Bad at Sports talks EXPO

August 30, 2013 · Print This Article

Stephanie Cristello published an interview with Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie on The Seen recently to talk about Bad at Sports’ plans for EXPO, including the upcoming print publication Dana Bassett is spearheading and the various interviews we will be conducting on site at the fair. 

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 8.16.12 AM

BAD AT SPORTS // INTERVIEW

Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland of Bad at Sports are two of the best in town to talk with about art. Known for their witty commentary and contemporary art talk platform Bad at Sports, they are most admired for their weekly podcasts and blog. The three of us sat down to discuss their involvement with EXPO/2013 – the recent venture of a newspaper that will be distributed throughout the fair spearheaded by What’s the T? columnist Dana Bassett entitled The EXPO Register, and the live interviews they will be fielding from their booth next to the /Dialogues stage. The lineup for this year’s panel is impressive, titled “One-on-One,” just one of many sports puns, MacKenzie and Holland will be in conversation with gallerists, directors, and curators, such as Solveig Øvstebø of the Renaissance Society, Elysia Borowy-Reeder of the MOCAD Detroit, and Director Charlie James, as well as artists William Powhida, José Lerma, and Sanford Biggers. While the details of these interviews are kept secret (you will just have to see them in person to find out), our conversation breaches the extent of Bad at Sports coverage at the fair, their plans for the paper, and MacKenzie and Holland’s bucket list – like an interview about interviews, or something along those lines.

Stephanie Cristello: Let’s start off by talking about some of the things you’re doing for the fair. You’re working with Dana Bassett to publish a newspaper reporting live?

Duncan MacKenzie: Yes, the newspaper is going to be called The EXPO Register and reflects our collective style – slightly goofy, a touch irreverent, yet fairly straight ahead. The great thing about working with Dana is that she has the same wry sense of humor as us, which will definitely be a part of it, but it will also be a sincere tool for the fair goers.

Richard Holland: At Bad at Sports we are slightly irreverent, but not extensively. We are respectful of our guests – we will make fun of them now and again, but at our core, we are the fan club newsletter. This newspaper will be a different side of that effort.

SC: So you will be reporting on trends, how much gossip is there going to be?

DM: 98% trash! No – there will be a chunk of it that’s gossip, but it’s light.

RH: We’re just trying not to get sued, that’s why we don’t have comments on our site anymore. After the fourth time we got threatened with a lawsuit…

read more…

A Day for Detroit: Joyce Scott

August 14, 2013 · Print This Article

"Flaming Skeleton," Joyce Scott, 1993. Glass beads and thread, 14 11/16 x 10 x 3/8 in. ( 37.3 x 25.4 x .97 cm).

“Flaming Skeleton #3,” Joyce Scott, 1993. Glass beads and thread, 14 11/16 x 10 x 3/8 in. ( 37.3 x 25.4 x .97 cm).

A Day for Detroit: Max Kaus

August 14, 2013 · Print This Article

"Man in a Fur Coat," Max Kaus, c. 1918. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 25 3/4 in. (74.9 x 65.4 cm) Framed: 37 x 33 7/16 x 1 3/4 in. ( 94 x 84.8 x 4.4 cm).

“Man in a Fur Coat,” Max Kaus, c. 1918. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 25 3/4 in. (74.9 x 65.4 cm) Framed: 37 x 33 7/16 x 1 3/4 in. ( 94 x 84.8 x 4.4 cm).

A Day for Detroit: David Barr

August 14, 2013 · Print This Article

"Structuralist Relief 118," David Barr, 1976. 43 1/2 x 50 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. 110.5 x 128.3 x 18.7 cm.

“Structuralist Relief 118,” David Barr, 1976. 43 1/2 x 50 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. 110.5 x 128.3 x 18.7 cm.