How much space do you need to organize an art fair? Not much, prove galleries Boetzelaer|Nispen and Jeanine Hofland. In their modest adjoining spaces, on fewer square meters than measures an average family home, they set up A Petite Fair. Twelve young international galleries showed work by as many artists. The flavor was overwhelmingly neo-conceptual, ranging from Bas van den Hurk’s poetic experiments with dyes and textiles and Oliver Michaels’ black-and-white photographs of bizarre architectural mesh-ups to the almost immaterial work of Annaïk Lou Pitteloud. A very restricted display policy prevented clutter and the atmosphere was festive and amicable, in tune with the DIY-attitude fuelling the fair.
Non-institutional and self-organized are also the catchphrases for the Amsterdam Art Weekend, of which A Petite Fair is a part. The event, loosely modeled after the Gallery Weekend in Berlin, was set up by a coalition of galleries hoping to ride the wave of international attention given to the annual Rijksakademie open studios. The debut edition last year was very successful, attracting collectors, new and old, in droves.
In that respect this year has been a bit disappointing. It isn’t because of the quality of what’s on show. Like last year, most presentations can be classified as the season’s best. The vast majority of the twenty-seven participating galleries and art spaces had openings, often enriched with lectures, tours, artist’s talks or performances. But maybe it was a little bit too much altogether. With additional programs at the International Documentary Festival and institutions such as De Appel and Stedelijk Museum – departing director Ann Goldstein had conveniently scheduled her farewell party for the opening night – the danger of overkill loomed large.
Dave McDermott, Sesso con la Bionda Atrice Grasso, 2013, yarn, oil, wax, canvas, Flashe on panel, 78 x 60 inches | 198.1 x 152.4 cm; Courtesy of the artist and GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam; Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.
At Upstream Gallery, however, attendance at opening night was high, as this rebellious outfit was simultaneously celebrating its ten year anniversary. For the occasion, work by all gallery artists is on display at the Lloyd Hotel – an exciting group show disguised as a game of hide-and-seek. At the gallery itself, David Haines once again proves his status as master draughtsman. In hyper-realistic large-scale drawings he summons up the world of sneaker-wearing, drug-using outcasts who commune on rooftops with inflatable aliens. In his latest film, Dereviled, Haines reverses mobile phone footage of gay exorcism in an evangelical church, transforms the words into something vaguely political, and buttresses the action with a pounding disco beat.
Remarkable is the prominence of painting in this year’s Amsterdam Art Weekend. No less than nine out of the twenty-seven exhibitors have put on a painting show. Mostly, these consist of new work by known artists, but a few stand out. The very first solo by Bas Geerts at Gabriel Rolt is quite a surprise, featuring the artist’s computer-generated patterns painted in thin layers echoing sixties formalism. Fiona MacKay lights up Galerie Martin van Zomeren with semi-abstract pastels hovering somewhere between Rothko, Tuymans, and O’Keeffe. And at GRIMM, Dave McDermott mixes fifties graphic design with Jean Arp and Japanese woodprints, presenting his partially wool-covered panels in a setting which openly plays with the art dealer stereotype but never falls into the trap of being merely ironic.
Maurice van Tellingen, Washing Machine, 2013, mdf, alcyd paint, lcd-monitor; ©Maurice van Tellingen; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Ron Mandos.
For a light touch head to Ron Mandos, where Maurice van Tellingen’s wall sculptures never fail to make visitors smile. Van Tellingen takes the banal – a toilet, a sidewalk, a washing machine – and lifts it to the level of theater. In the category of hardcore installation art demanding more analytical brainpower, Fons Welters and Annet Gelink are the places to go. Welters’ first solo presentation of Saskia Noor van Imhoff is aesthetically pleasing and intellectually interesting enough, but the artist’s visual language is almost uncomfortably close to that of gallery star David Jablonowski and could turn out to be just fashionable. The work by David Maljkovic at Gelink has more proven staying power. In collages and sculptural objects he revisits motives from earlier works. An animation based on a sixties Croatian cartoon, accompanied by amplified mechanical noise, nicely ties together the visual essay about architecture, modernism, memory and desire.
(Image on top: David Haines, Radiant Bodies and Unreal Aliens, 2013, graphite on paper, 176 x 226 cm; Courtesy Upstream Gallery; Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.)