After months of preparation, this weekend the museum welcomed more than 1800 visitors for the second-annual Art on Paper Fair. In the days leading up to the event, art work was carefully taken off the walls in the Alice Smith and Garden galleries, and the Gibbes was transformed into a bustling community of artists, gallery owners, art collectors, art experts, volunteers, staff and curious onlookers. Vendors included eight galleries from across the southeast that showcased works celebrating the south and this year, we added new elements including the “Ask the Expert” booth and an Artisan Boutique.
Thankfully the rain held off and the fair opened on Friday night with the First Look Celebration. Guests enjoyed delicious treats from local food trucks, music and drinks. As a fan of anything with bacon, my personal favorite was the pimiento cheese, muenster, avocado, and bacon on sourdough sandwich made by Cory’s Famous Grilled Cheese. My colleague Justa Debnam of skirt! magazine and Where Charleston agreed. “Attending the party with fellow Gibbes supporters on Friday was extraordinary. It was such a treat to be part of a diverse and passionate group of Charleston’s arts community,” she said.
Making art accessible to the public was the impetus behind the initial Art on Paper Fair. As a relative newcomer to the museum, I wasn’t around for the first fair, and so I asked Pam Wall, Gibbes curator of exhibitions, to elaborate on the intent of the fair. “It’s a good opportunity to learn about and be more comfortable around art. We offer free admission to the Art on Paper Fair in hopes that it will encourage the public to come into the museum to browse through the works on paper and to talk with the gallery owners. The fair helps to eliminate the intimidation factor.” Local artist Jonathan Green agreed, saying: “Works on paper are more affordable and less intimidating and will ignite a whole new culture of collectors.” His booth on the second floor displayed works of art that were twenty years old (and were pulled out of storage for this event!). Green’s early figure drawings are more linear and abstract than his contemporary oil paintings, and provided viewers a unique opportunity to glimpse the evolution of this artist’s journey. “Drawing is fundamental to being a good artist, and I’m glad I was a good student,” he laughed. The John K. Surovek Gallery of Palm Beach was a new addition to this year’s paper fair. Co-owner Clay Surovek, who participates in 2 to 3 shows including Art Basel and the American Fine Art Fair in New York, says these events provide a great opportunity to meet new clients.
All weekend visitors strolled through the museum, stopping to browse through the Artisan Boutique and on to the booths where they could ask questions of gallery owners and artists. Erin Nathanson, Arts & Cultural Relations Director for ArtFields, visited the fair over the weekend. “Entering the Art on Paper Fair, I was delighted to see vendors selling handmade letterpress (Sideshow Press and Ink Meets Paper) and bound items for a very accessible price. I began my visit by sifting through many beautiful prints and monotypes—I LOVE being able to handle works and get them so close to my face that I can imagine the smell of ink and other materials through the plastic. My favorite piece was a large wood-cut print by Lese Corrigan! In all, the Art on Paper Fair was a great experience and I hope it expands. I am excited for next year,” she said. After another successful event, we are looking forward to next year’s fair too!
—Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager, Gibbes Museum of Art
Photo credits: MCG Photography