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After an underwhelming show during Art Basel Miami Beach week in December, fair-hoppers hoped to give SELECT, another opportunity to impress during Frieze Week (May 8-12). And we think it did just that. Revamping the white booth model, SELECT, run by artists Matthew Eck and Brian Whitley, encouraged exhibitors to curate in unprecedented ways, installing dynamic installations to accentuating the work being shown.
We walked through the palatial French doors of the Altman Building, a confident choice of venue for SELECT, neighboring with Art Week fan-favorite PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, and were immediately greeted by the Duane Reed Gallery from St. Louis. They presented a bold selection of contemporary works ranging from Reindeer Dance by Jan Huling to Spiritman 3 by Mark Newport.
The majority of the show (all 44 booths) had an equally impactful affect, featuring paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, digital media, and everything in between. More than a strong lowbrow flavor, SELECT’s appeal as an outlier stemmed from the quirkiness of its exhibitors and the charm exuded by the artists and gallery reps. It was not your typical voyeuristic activity, rather, it felt like one big participatory experience. Around every corner we were welcomed into deep and memorable dialogues about the work. As long-time New Yorkers, we generally hate aggressive sales-tactics and uninvited conversation, but this somehow felt different.
One of the more remarkable instances here occurred with artist Brett Day Windham. We were still coming down from the buzz induced by 1 Mile Gallery’s booth when, out of the corner of our eye, we spotted a rainbow-colored selection of tchotchkes. Before we knew it we were engrossed in a discussion with Windham, SELECT Art Fair’s first resident artist. For this one-month residency, Windham uprooted from her Greenpoint workshop into a space at Industry City Studios in Sunset Park. Throughout the duration of this project, Windham took a walk every day with a different artist, designer, or friend (including Liz Collins, Alexandra Grecco, Audra Wolowiec, Brent Birnhaum, and Georgia Wright) collecting found objects along the way.
She said, “The desire to organize and celebrate color drives me into the studio more than almost anything else. I love to find color in unexpected places, and also to-reimagine how it is used. In everything I make, I find great value in unexpected found and accumulated groups of objects. The conversation between my sculptures and collages has everything to do with these instincts.”
After an invigorating chat with Windham we easily navigated the remainder of SELECT’s first floor, and made our way to the lower level. Here we had a chance encounter with performance artist/photographer/community leader, Ventiko. She invited us to sit down in what looked like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle, and gave us some ice-cold Perrier. We found ourselves there an hour later swapping family recipes and religious woes.
Ventiko, primarily a photographer, having worked alongside legendary artists Peter Beard, Ryan Mcginley, and Andy Warhol, is also a creator with a unique ability to lower the divide between audience and performer. In this space, adjacent to LFA’s sneak peek of the Harlem/Brixon Project, Ventiko hosted a series of events throughout the weekend. She invited guests, security guards, and whomever was willing, to join an interactive experience, whereby those involved would remove a majority of their clothes, contemplate their most inner feelings, and allow her to direct the scene while photographing, resulting in dramatic and mysterious portraiture.
The walls were lined with sheets and the floors covered in pillows. In the middle of it all was a pile of Ventiko’s personal possessions including real chicken bones discarded from a favorite restaurant, memorabilia from her childhood synagogue, a plaster mold of her teeth, amongst others, all used to channel her past experiences while simultaneously invoking conversation with participants.
It is this invitational atmosphere and the overarching friendly vibe at SELECT that set it apart from the rest. Though it is still evolving, and seeking to secure its place, the thing to keep in mind here is that snootiness and snobbery ought to be checked at the door.