Zoo Art Fair 09 Fails to Deliver – artmarketblog.com
This year’s Zoo art fair was a rather interesting event primarily because of the new venue which consisted of several disused Victorian warehouse buildings in London’s east end that were divided into three sections (Zones A, B and C). Unfortunately (in my opinion) Zoo were kicked out of their usual venue at the Royal Academy of Arts after London gallery Haunch of Venison leased the space. Zoo weren’t entirely to blame for the circumstances that they found themselves in and as much as I would like to say that they triumphed over adversity, they didn’t. It was obvious that Zoo were attempting to make the most of the venue and give an edgy feeling to the fair by taking on what Zoo called an “adapted structure”, but it ended up feeling and looking much more like a last resort structure. Another major hurdle that Zoo had to come up against was the reduction in the number applications to exhibit from commercial galleries which they remedied with the introduction of non-commercial curated exhibits. Having a mix of commercial and non-commercial exhibits was really the only solution that Zoo could have adopted so I don’t think that they deserve kudos for coming up with this idea. The inclusion of non-commercial curated exhibits was, never the less, a solution that worked.
When I arrived at the fair I was immediately reminded of the 2008 Sydney Biennale which used a bunch of disused prison and shipyard buildings (see here: http://www.bos2008.com/app/biennale/venue/3) on a small island on Sydney harbour as one of the venues. The difference is that the Sydney Biennale used the derelict spaces to great effect and matched the art to the spaces incredibly well, which made for an amazing experience that gave the impression that the art was part of the site. Perhaps my perception of Zoo was somewhat skewed by the awesome experience I had with the Sydney Biennale but I still think I would have been disappointed with Zoo regardless of whether I had attended the Sydney Biennale or not.
One of my biggest gripes is that were virtually name tags on the walls or any other sort of signage to identify who the works were by. Whether this was an attempt to make the art and the buildings feel more like one entity I do not know, but it ended up being just plain annoying and in no way encouraged people to buy anything. Another major issue I had with the fair was the poor layout of the film section which was located in Zone B. The films on show were relatively long which the cold and lack of seating made virtually impossible to view in their entirety without getting sore legs or risking frost bite. To be honest it wasn’t the venue that made Zoo a failure, it was the way the show was put together and executed. Zoo could have presented a great fair had they utilised the space to greater effect and put a bit more thought into the presentation of the art as well as a bit more effort into making the experience more comfortable for visitors.
The one saving grace for Zoo was the small number of artists whose work was absolutely phenomenal and worth braving the cold to see. My next post will profile the artists that I believe made Zoo worth visiting.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications