One of the best adapters was Honfleur Gallery (WDC) who brought in large plywood panels to create walls against which their art could be seen. A number of the exhibitors splurged taking two rooms and/or had the beds removed; Goya Girl (Balt) set up tables to show prints. The Jose Bienvenu Gallery (NYC) effectively created a gallery space by covering the walls and furniture with cardboard, creating an art environment where art could be seen and appreciated.
The DC Portfolio of digital prints by Washington based artists, produced by David Adamson, was striking even displayed in the dark, underground parking area open to exhibitors. Without potential display walls, exhibitors had the opportunity to shape their own spaces. Art Whino gallery created a space reflecting the personality of its National Harbor gallery while Art Surge, from Wisconsin, was giving away artworks donated by artists displayed on tables and a wire art-booth wall, for free. The dim transition stairway space was perfect for the neon work by Craig Kraft also a homegrown artist.
The installations by individual artists in the garage, were among the more interesting. Camper Contemporary, a white-walled gallery installed inside a camper van by director Calder Brannock, set up a portable office to represent the enterprise. Brannock, a recent art graduate, organizes excursions for six to a dozen artists to inspire new art and then exhibits the results. Narrative texts in the form of roadside historical plaques on view nearby, was one such successful result. Large fans helped to make the parking garage hospitable, a technique also used at Artomatic's former Hechinger location in Tenley.
All in all, despite the pre-jurying exclusiveness, the international participation, and the press coverage, the (e)merge art fair lacked the robust intensity, energy and wonderful surprises offered by the locally created Artomatic events, one of which opens in Frederick September 28th. Despite some works of note and the opportunity to network, the overall impression of e(merge) was disappointing. The art installations in the conference room lacked inventiveness and risk, and galleries had a difficult time exhibiting their personalities. It will be interesting to know whether (e)merge will emerge commercially viable.
For more information see the (e)merge web site, and The Washington Post review by Philip Kennicott, September 14th, 2011 in Style.
-Clare del Notte