A group of art galleries in Richmond, Virginia, have banded together to launch the city’s first contemporary art fair. Titled CURRENT, the fair will take place October 20-23. It is organized by owners of ADA Gallery, Candela Books + Gallery, Glave Kocen Gallery, Page Bond Gallery, Reynolds Gallery, Quirk Gallery, and board members of the nonprofit 1708 Gallery — who will each set up a booth in the 5,0000-square-foot at Hohman Design studio in the historic district of Scott’s Addition.
At this point, the event is more of a local art gathering than a true art fair, which would involve numerous galleries from other cities. In a press statement, Pam Royall, an art collector, philanthropist, and advisory board member for CURRENT, said the event “is a chance for Richmonders to view the work represented by all of our top galleries in one place.”
Fair exhibitors are paying $2,500 each for a 14-by18-square-foot booth. Among the artists whose works will be exhibited are such locals as Brooke Inman, Ed Trask, Cynthia Henebry, Heidi Trepanier, and Chris McCaw along with internationally known figures like Sally Mann.
CURRENT is geared towards all levels of collectors. Galleries will offer accessibly priced works for new or thrifty collectors as well as higher end pieces for more seasoned collectors. Removing the cost barrier that makes many art fairs off-putting for the uninitiated (or that is put in place to thin the crowds), admission to CURRENT will be free on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which is sure to boost attendance and generate interest.
Pam and Bill Royall, major supporters of the event, commissioned Shepard Fairey to design the logo for CURRENT, which was inspired by the landmark TV tower on nearby Broad Street. Also serving on the advisory board are collector Ted Elmore, retired arts dean of Virginia Commonwealth University Joe Seipel, VCU design professor Sara Reed, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts curator Sarah Eckhardt. Caroline Wright, former curator of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, is acting as fair coordinator.
Many fairs start small; the Armory Show in New York, for example, got its start in 1994 as the scrappy Gramercy International Art Fair in the pre-gentrification Gramercy Park Hotel. Now located on two huge piers on Manhattan’s west side, the fair’s most recent edition had 205 exhibitors from 36 countries, with attendance of about 65,000, according to ArtNews.
The international art fair circuit has galleries, artists, collectors, and the press hopping from continent to continent throughout the year, but landing only in such major art capitals as New York, Miami, Basel, London, Beijing and Istanbul. Two relatively recent startups put Texas on the fair circuit map. The Dallas Art Fair launched in the economic slump of 2008; this year it had 97 exhibitors from 19 countries and drew 15,000 attendees. The fifth edition of Houston’s Texas Contemporary fair (which is owned by the Brooklyn-based Art Market Productions) had 13,500 visitors and 60 exhibitors. (This year’s Texas Contemporary takes place Sept. 29-Oct. 2.) Both Texas cities are known for their engaged and generous art collectors, making them appealing outlets for international art dealers.
The organizers of CURRENT are taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to another fair next year.
No doubt other cities in the South will be watching CURRENT to gauge the feasibility of establishing their own fairs as a driver of cultural and economic capital. With this new art fair and next year’s opening of the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art, Richmond is poised to become a major art center in the Southeast.
For more information, visit CURRENT’s website.