By Christine Benedetti | May 22, 2015 | Culture
The annual ArtAspen fair tops off the valley’s trio of sweet summer exhibitions in contemporary style.
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956, by Yousuf Karsh. The gelatin silver photo captures the modern American artist whose own iconic work will be on display at ArtAspen this summer.
For Aspen’s West End hockey rink, the only icing around in August is the one on town’s cultural cake. That’s when ArtAspen transforms the Aspen Ice Garden from a recreational arena into a professional festival ground aimed at art collectors.
From late July through early August, two major institutions in town—the Aspen Art Museum and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center—host their annual summer benefits, full of showings and parties and seminars. Combined with the ArtAspen fair a couple of weeks later, that density of events makes Aspen one of the world’s best places for art lovers during the month of August.
“We realize it’s a sophisticated and art-savvy market” says Rick Friedman, CEO of the Hamptons Expo Group, ArtAspen’s presenting organization. “We know what they want and [how to] deal with that.”
The annual four-day event, which this year runs from August 13–16, hosts 30 different galleries in a popup fair at the Ice Garden. The Hamptons Expo Group has experience with this kind of thing: They present similar festivals in Palm Springs, Houston, and the Hamptons, and each on a larger scale, with 60 to 80 exhibiting galleries. “This is certainly our boutique event,” says Friedman. “It’s more relaxed.”
The contemporary art fair features exhibitors from all over the country, and the works it shows—paintings, sculpture, photographs, and prints from hundreds of different artists—can range in price from $2,000 to $1 million. In addition, says Friedman, the weekend features guest lectures, panels, exhibition walk-throughs from museum curators, and ancillary events.
Last summer, a handful of Aspen gallery owners raised concerns to City Council about the proliferation of art events, citing an increase in festivals hosted by “out-of-town” organizations. Aspen is home to dozens of galleries, and competition is already tight, they said. Friedman acknowledges this sentiment, but adopts an “as the tide comes in, all boats rise” mentality, saying that many of his near-2,500 patrons visit ArtAspen and then continue into town to shop the galleries.
“I don’t think any [two galleries are] selling the same artist,” he says. “There are different genres and different periods, so we’re not directly competing.”
As the temporary walls and disparate works of contemporary art collide to transform the Ice Garden into an art lover’s dream—where works from mother of American modernism Georgia O’Keeffe sit casually alongside the geometric creations of Spanish sculptor Arturo Berned and across from the intimate moments captured in collage by California artist Jay Kelly—ArtAspen’s greatest attribute becomes clear: range.
“This event is one of the largest showcases of art in one place in Aspen all year,” says Friedman. “And that means we have the luxury of presenting an extremely diverse array of pieces from galleries across the country and artists from around the globe.”
But the key, he adds, is presenting such a wide range without sacrificing quality. The Aspen Ice Garden, 233 W. Hyman Ave., 800-211-0640
PhotograPhy © the estate of yousuf Karsh, Courtesy of gallery M. Denver, ColoraDo