Art fairs play an increasingly pivotal role in the art world. Over the past decade, the number of fairs has quadrupled, from 68 in 2005 to about 270 today, and they drive approximately 40 percent of gallery sales. But what happens after a fair ends? Although these events provide exposure, create buzz, and generate income, there are also downsides, and these are explored in When the Smoke Clears: The Fair Housing Project, a new exhibition by two CHF Business Accelerator Fellows that opened recently at Smack Mellon, in Brooklyn, New York.
Artists Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was—the husband and wife who work under the name Ghost of a Dream—collected some of the trash that was left behind at US art fairs, and that would otherwise have ended up in landfills. Using these discarded materials, the couple created a small house and a host of other objects, including paintings that are displayed inside the structure exactly as they would be hung if they were being shown at a fair: tightly packed, competing for the audience’s attention.
The exhibition also includes a multi-channel video. In the latter, the house that the two artists constructed is shown in a field near a lake, and the viewer watches as the building is slowly enveloped by fog, vanishing into thin air after the fog dissipates.
According to the duo, “[Art fairs] can be a terrible way to see art, packed together, each piece struggling to make its presence known. And after the last collector leaves, and the artwork is packed up, there are mountains of trash left behind.”
Their exhibition also compares the volatility of the art world to that of the housing market, a subject with which most artists must contend as they struggle to establish and maintain their studio spaces even as neighborhoods change around them. “With this work, we question the viability of the [art] market, its long-term sustainability, and its relation to the cycles of boom and bust that often correspond in the housing markets.”
Ghost of a Dream’s When the Smoke Clears: The Fair Housing Project will be on view at Smack Mellon until October 30th, 2016. To learn more about the show and the challenges of mounting large-scale installations, check out our recent podcast interview with the duo.