The Fair at the Waldrof Hotel

Western Front featuring Sylvain Sailly and Nicolas Sassoon at the Fair.

Satellite Gallery was at the Waldrof Hotel last Friday attending the Fair as a guest. People were buzzing with excitement about Vancouver’s very own international contemporary art fair before it opened on Thursday June 2nd. Founder and director Lucas Soi delivered a great event that freshen Vancouver’s art scene. We had the pleasure of asking the busy artist-curator a few questions about organizing the event and his future plans.

S = Satellite Gallery | L = Lucas Soi

S: It has been awhile since Vancouver has an art fair, what inspired you to organize one specifically at the Waldorf Hotel?

L: In addition to following the local art scene in Vancouver I read a lot on the internet.  I have favorite blogs that document exhibitions in LA, NYC, Berlin and London. Facebook is also a great way to keep up with what’s going on around the world through artists who are constantly traveling and updating their status.  This time of year all you hear about is Art Basel in Switzerland and the Venice Biennial in Italy so when I learned that the Waldorf was interested in using their rooms in creative ways I thought about the concept of the art fair and thought it might work.

S: With exhibitors coming from all over the world, how long did it take you to organize the event? You must have spent long hours on the phone and in front of the computer contacting people!

L: From my first meeting with the hotel to opening night took two months.  I did most of the organizing in the first 14 days. I just started emailing all my dream galleries around the world and watched as the responses rolled in.  I asked galleries that I had worked with before and ones that I simply admired.  The biggest surprise to me was not that international galleries were interested (all of the ones I asked were commercial enterprises and many had participated in art fairs before), but that our local artist-run centers were eager to come together and participate in this type of exhibition format.

S: The turn out at the opening reception was great, do you feel the general public and the art community in Vancouver have become more receptive to commercial galleries and artist-run center working under one roof? What do you think prompted the change?

L: The opening was incredible and I received a phenomenal amount of positive feedback.  The hotel was happy, the galleries were happy, the visitors were happy.  All I heard all weekend was “Are you doing this again next year?”  I think everyone involved is eager to see this happen again.  My impression from talking with the galleries is that they all knew about one another: owners of commercial galleries from Seattle knew the Directors of artist-run centers in Vancouver who were aware of institutions working in Berlin.  I think the different business models that separate organizations is less of a hindrance to overall activities; we’re all in the same business and that was more than apparent at The Fair.  I’d really like to see more private-public partnerships (PPP) like what Satellite Gallery is doing.

S: The idea of curating exhibitions in satellite or temporary spaces is apparent in your own work. Do you think this is the direction of where Vancouver art scene is going?

L: My curatorial practice is what I’m most passionate about at the moment.  I operate Soi Fischer, an independent commercial enterprise financed with private and public capital.  I’ve curated one exhibition every three months for over a year now.  The mandate of Soi Fischer is to find a new space for every show, essentially working in an extra-institutional format; by not being tied down to any location or history we can change the focus of our programming with every show.  I do think this alternative model of exhibition-making is more viable in Vancouver’s economy today.  There are so many spaces in between rentals that the opportunities for pop-up shows are endless.

S: Now that you are finished with The Fair, do you have plans for curating or organizing another exhibition anytime soon?

L: The next Soi Fischer exhibition is in Toronto this July.  Butcher Gallery is hosting us.  It’s called “At The Long Table” and features Steven Brekelmans from Vancouver, Natalie Hausler from Germany and Annie Macdonell from Toronto.  It’s about the 19thcentury French philosopher Charles Fourier’s utopian ideas, particularly his idea of the Phalanstere, a building designed for communal living, and the American economist Paul Krugman’s theories on self-organizing systems, how complex systems in which randomness and chaos seem spontaneously to evolve into unexpected order.

For more information about the Fair and Lucas Soi, you can visit his website at http://www.lucassoi.ca/

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