Fair Trade

In front of Pierre Huyghe's Untitled, 2010, at Marian Goodman at the VIP Art Fair.

EVERYONE WAS AT THE VERNISSAGE for the VIP Art Fair last Saturday morning. Or so you would think, given the not-so-VIP wait times. Even those with a special VIP pass found it awfully hard to load the online-only fair’s login page for the first few hours. “there is a ‘we are so loved that its slow’ note at VIP site. not great,” VIP dealer Magda Sawon Twittered that afternoon.

But once you were in, everyone was there. Or so I imagine. Anyway, there were certainly a lot of galleries represented, and really prize ones, too: Zwirner, Gladstone, Presenhuber, Miro, and a bunch of others that I would list, except that the site is now “applying a series of upgrades,” “in order to improve performance,” and so is thus temporarily unavailable for a cross-check.

When it’s all working properly, it’s intriguing to navigate. An everyman avatar—in this case a shady-looking, slouchily dressed silhouette—stands “near” each piece of art so you can see the scale. He glides eerily from work to work, shrinking and expanding accordingly. Even for non-collectors, the viewable price ranges make for an interesting feature: Who knew photographs from Cindy Sherman’s most recent creepy collector-lady series were running $250,000–$500,000 (at L&M Arts), the same range as a vintage Sam Francis gouache on paper? Or that one could pick up a “live marine ecosystem” put together by Pierre Huyghe for €100,000–€250,000 at Marian Goodman? (An online video “trailer” for the untitled fish tank made salient the strangeness of the whole endeavor.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be an art fair without some kind of party, and last Thursday the VIP organizers threw one at the Eventi hotel in New York, a site chosen, I’m hoping, because the bar downstairs was designed by the guy who did visual styling for Blade Runner and Tron. There were the requisite free drinks and a smattering of iMac stations where one could test-drive the fair. Riffs on the acronym (which officially stands for “Viewing in Private”) abounded. “The only thing better than Viewing in Private is Drinking in Private,” a friend whispered as she set out the door, presumably with the intention of doing the latter. After a short speech celebrating the kickoff, VIP Art Fair cofounder James Cohan left us with the tidbit, “So whether it’s Viewing in Pajamas or Viewing in Prada, we look forward to hearing what ‘VIP’ means to you.”

In front of Cindy Sherman's Untitled, 2008, at L&M Arts at the VIP Art Fair.

Which of course begs the question: Who cares what you wear to this thing?

You don’t have to wear anything.

You don’t have to pack.

You won’t have to think about what you might be able to get past security. You won’t need to renew your passport. You won’t have to buy a guidebook or rehearse the basics of a new language. You won’t have to rent a car or negotiate strange transportation systems. You won’t have to put yourself at the mercy of erratic algorithms to get the best price for a flight. You won’t have to go to the airport.

You won’t have to see any crummy exhibitions just because you’re stuck in town and have nothing better to do. You won’t get sore feet. You won’t have to get a skanky hotel room (or a nice one). You won’t catch the flu. You won’t need to scan a party to see if there’s anyone to avoid. You won’t see anyone you like, either. You won’t end up doing strange, arguably regrettable things after midnight on a beach or in an abandoned monastery near other people doing the same arguably regrettable things. You won’t have to wait in line for a bathroom while two or three or four people are stuck in there doing God knows what.

You don’t need a tan—nor will you get one. You won’t meet anyone cute. You won’t get any free tote bags or Art Production Fund towels or any other useful swag. You won’t see any Art Fair Art. You won’t get drunk on somebody else’s dime or have the chance to reflect on the differences between makes of champagne (or vodka or gin or rum). You won’t see Eva and Adele. Or Beyoncé and Jay-Z. You won’t hear any cool bands and you won’t see any tired performances. You won’t see any inspired ones either.

You won’t stay up late fraternizing with foreigners and get up early to fraternize with even more. You won’t have to hear about it. You won’t be stuck for too long in some godforsaken city or for too short a time in a city you love. You won’t have to return to piles of catch-up e-mails. You won’t have enviable experiences with new writers, curators, dealers, strangers. You won’t see nor furtively dance near (!) any celebrities. You won’t have adventures. You won’t have to be concerned about liking the food. You won’t attend any boring dinners. You won’t have to worry about whether or not you’re on the list. You won’t have to hunt for the afterparty or the after-afterparty. You won’t arrive at an event and wonder if you’re missing something elsewhere and you won’t get somewhere and know precisely that this is it.

No one will take your picture.