- by Barney Davey
New Beginnings – ArtExpo Bets on Las Vegas
In the art world, when a show in a new venue springs forth with energy, sales and optimism, the excitement is palpable and contagious. It’s my hope this post will herald a new beginning with ArtExpo Las Vegas. The past decade has wrought so much change within the industry and for the most part, everything is more difficult and confounding. But, opportunity still abounds if you know where find the cheese in its new spaces. I truly hope this show is one of those spaces. The industry sorely needs the shot of adrenalin that good news and great results a happening new venue always brings.
If you have been a reader of my Art Print Issues blog, you know I have expressed the importance to the industry of having a vibrant ArtExpo and dismay at changes there that don’t portend well for the portion of the art market it importantly represents. I won’t discuss the changes wrought by a host of factors, some of which are roiling industries of all sorts here. See the blog for details.
THE CASE FOR VEGAS
Following a trend begun in 1998 by casino developer extraordinaire, Steve Wynn, to bring fine art to Las Vegas, ArtExpo is set to open its first international art fair in the gambling mecca next month on the weekend of September 28 – 30. ArtExpo brings its 29-year old reputation from New York City where it is established as a premier destination for the fine art trade and collectors of fine art. The venue is the very popular and ultra-hip Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Wynn established the Bellagio Gallery Fine Art and stocked it with his personal collection of Modern Masters. It was a special treat to see it. Though Wynn kept the collection when he sold the casino, the tradition lives on. The gallery’s recent opening of an important and rare Picasso exhibition is an example. Five years in the making, In the Master’s Hands: Picasso’s Ceramics, Treasures from the Estate of Pablo Picasso features more than 30 unique ceramic objects by the legendary 20th century artist. The exhibition will be on view from May 25, 2007 through January 14, 2008.
Since much of the art on sale at the ArtExpo show will be offered in editions, the Picasso Ceramics show will run a fitting parallel to it. Picasso’s ceramics were made in edition sizes up to 500 pieces giving perceptive collectors an opportunity to buy affordable work from a living master. While most of us prefer owning an original, having an affordable alternative with multiple pieces of desirable originals is a welcome alternative. Reproductions help stimulate the market and support artists, galleries and publishers.
Show producers are marketing ArtExpo to art collectors from all walks of life. They expect novices or experienced buyers alike to attend and explore the latest trends in the fine art world representing works ranging from original paintings and sculptures to limited-edition lithographs, giclees, animation art, photography and more.
The upper crust in the spectrum fine art shows plenty of positive energy. Record prices at recent auctions, the vibrancy of shows such as Art Basel Miami Beach and the Venice Biennale attest to it as does the inaugural launch of David Lester’s 228-foot luxury yacht SeaFair Grand Luxe, which is dedicated to bringing an event-driven facility to wealthy patrons. Lester describes the newly built and specially designed floating exhibition, "It is a mobile luxury shopping venue for art, jewelry and fashion. We really see the ship as a cornerstone of an entirely new industry that will bring excitement to a retail environment."
While neither ArtExpo Las Vegas nor its New York counterpart, arguably don’t compare in prestige to these toniest events, it nevertheless offers enormous potential to be major factor in furthering the exposure and marketing goals of new and existing artists and art publishers. It’s the rare artist that jumpstarts a career in a top tier event such as the Armory Show in New York City or the Palm Beach Art Show. And that makes a venue such as ArtExpo perhaps the best live art fair venue to begin building a reputation, collector, dealer and gallery base.
Generating buzz beyond the show walls is possible as evidenced by the antics of the Michael Godard whose sales have rocketed since the brouhaha with go-go dancers and midgets in his booth in New York gained him national notoriety. Other artists have leveraged their ArtExpo experience similarly, but in a more tasteful manner.
If history is any indicator, then consider during its long run, Artexpo has touched and helped the careers of some of the most well known American artists of the 20th century, including Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Robert Indiana, Leroy Neiman and Robert Rauschenberg. The importance of the success of ArtExpo Las Vegas show for both organizers and exhibitors should not be lightly dismissed. It is a rare opportunity to establish something with significant growth and stability for the industry.
The best pre-show news is the event is sold out to exhibitors. This is a great sign of optimism from the companies whose exhibit dollars fund this venture. As with any show of this sort, the proof of the pudding is not with the exhibitors, it is with the buyers. If sufficient numbers show up open to buy, the show will be a success. Let’s all hope they do. You can do your part by making plans now to come have fun, buy some art and enjoy all that Vegas and ArtExpo have to offer.
Exhibitors can take heart from the rapid rise in importance of the World Market Center at the north end of the strip. It has quickly became a major player in the exhibition of home furnishings and accessories and points to how things within an industry can change and how Las Vegas is capable of responding to those changes. The WMC’s shows in January and July draw increasingly larger attendees making it a "must do" for companies seeking trade buyers in the home furnishings industry. The decade long successful run of West Coast Art and Frame Show in Las Vegas in January is yet another indication of Las Vegas as a site where successful shows can launch and grow.
For years, many of the fine art world’s largest companies have requested a western venue for Artexpo. The other obvious West Coast choices of Los Angeles and San Francisco have proven to be fickle causing attempts to establish long running shows there to fizzle, Las Vegas with it’s limitless entertainment options, world-class restaurants, luxurious hotels, convenient access and warm fall temperatures, is the odds on favorite to make a go of it. It simply is a great destination for art buyers from around the world.
In October 2001, the 7,660 square-foot Guggenheim Hermitage opened to the public at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino. It is the first joint venture between the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia and New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. It’s current show running from July 27, 2007 – April 27, 2008 is titled, Modern Masters from the Guggenheim Collection.
Here is the museum’s description:
This exhibition presents 37 treasured masterpieces from the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, that chart modern artists’ experimental interpretations of the academic themes of portraiture, landscape, still life, and genre. The juxtaposition of works on the same theme by artists associated with Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism invites consideration of the evolution of style during this dynamic period in art history as well as the timelessness of these subjects.
There is a lot riding on the success of this show. Mostly for the artists and publishers who have put their money betting on the come the show will deliver a winner. Though I have no personal stake, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity take part of the action and be there in person to back the intrepid entrepreneur exhibitors with real money, their money on the line. For the good of the exhibitors, for the good of the art industry and for a good time, if you have the means to attend this show, make your reservations now. Register online in advance for your free tickets at: www.artexpos.com