Inaugural Seattle Art Fair Brings Attention to Under-the-Radar Collector Base

Posted by on Wednesday August 5, 2015 | Events, Fine Art

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Photo courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

More than 60 galleries from across the country and as far afield as Hong Kong participated this past weekend in the first edition of the Seattle Art Fair. Co-organized by Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. and Brooklyn-based art fair producers Art Market Productions, drew more than 15,000 attendees and generated sales that pleased many galleries.

The positive results highlighted what many local and national galleries already knew: that Seattle boasts an important group of collectors, some well-established and others who are beginning to build collections and, thanks to a growing economy and a robust tech sector, have the means to do so. Robert Goff, a director at David Zwirner in New York, says the gallery participated because they feel Seattle is “a good place to build a foundation.”

Goff says that, going in, some of the local collectors were known to the gallery, “and there are other big names who we didn’t really know that well and who are in tech.” The gallery sold a Christopher Williams photograph, an Oscar Murillo painting, a Raymond Pettibon drawing and two important R. Crumb drawings, among other works, Goff says. In additional to regional collectors and curators, Goff says the gallery saw a number of advisers and collectors from California and a few people from New York. “We were actually happily surprised by that,” he says.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

For Mariane Ibrahim of Seattle’s Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, the fair provided an opportunity to connect with serious local collectors who night normally attend fairs in other cities. On occasion, Ibrahim says, she’ll meet Seattle collectors “when I’m doing art fairs in other cities.” Ibrahim, who shows photography and work in other media from artists in Africa and other emerging markets, says the fair also gave her an opportunity to connect “with institutions such as the Vancouver Art Gallery that I haven’t had the chance to meet with or visit.”

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A view of the M.I.A. Gallery booth at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Portland, Oregon gallerist Charles A. Hartman, who showed work by photographers Holly Andres and Corey Arnold among other artists, told PDN via email that he found “a great deal of enthusiasm for the artists I showed.” Hartman says he sold “a number of large pieces” by Arnold, and met collectors and curators who weren’t already known to him. “The fair looked great and it was a good group of dealers,” Hartman added.

The fair’s organizers have said the it will be back next year, and each of the gallerists PDN spoke with said they’re likely to exhibit again. “It was really well done,” Goff says.

“We have a great niche of collectors in Seattle,” Ibrahim notes, “and galleries know that, from New York or from any other place. They know the very important art collectors that live here in this small city.”

Related: Is the Art World Biased Against Commercial Photographers?


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