(e)merge art fair re­turns to Capi­tol Sky­line Ho­tel.

Per­form­ers and ex­hibitors get the run of a ho­tel — hall­ways, bed­rooms, bath­rooms, even the swim­ming pool and the park­ing garage

The Washington Post - - WEEKEND - BY MICHAEL O’SUL­LI­VAN

The con­ven­tional wis­dom is that the craze for con­tem­po­rary art fairs — gath­er­ings of art deal­ers that re­sem­ble con­ven­tions for the cul­turati — is a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non. Jamie Smith dis­agrees. Smith, an art his­to­rian and co-founder of Wash­ing­ton’s (e)merge art fair, which opens Thurs­day at the Capi­tol Sky­line Ho­tel, thinks that fairs like hers harken back to the late 15th cen­tury, when a group of Bel­gian artists set up stalls near the An­twerp cathe­dral to hawk their wares.

But Smith, who founded (e)merge in 2011 with Leigh Con­ner, her part­ner in Con­ner­smith Gallery, ad­mits that things have changed a bit since 1480. For one thing, al­though in­di­vid­ual artists are spot­lighted through­out the ho­tel — in hall­ways, con­fer­ence rooms, even the park­ing garage — art deal­ers make up a sub­stan­tial chunk of the fair, trans­form­ing an en­tire floor of bed­rooms into makeshift gal­leries, in some cases dis­play­ing art in bath­rooms and in­side dresser draw­ers.

To be sure, the mar­ket­ing as­pects of (e)merge can’t be de­nied. Sea­soned col­lec­tors at­tend, as do first-time buy­ers look­ing to get their feet wet. But there’s a third cat­e­gory you’ll see in even greater num­bers: the gawker. Con­ner says a core part of the fair’s mis­sion is to present a “snap­shot of what’s out there,” so even if you don’t bring your check­book, you should def­i­nitely bring your cu­rios­ity and your cam­era. ( The Wash­ing­ton Post is a spon­sor of the event.)

The fair has two main parts. There’s what Con­ner and Smith call the gallery plat­form, which takes place on one of the ho­tel’s up­per floors. There you’ll find a wide va­ri­ety of ex­hibitors, from tra­di­tional com­mer­cial gal­leries to al­ter­na­tive non­profit spa­ces that spe­cial­ize in edgy art. The only cri­te­rion is that the artist not have had a solo mu­seum show.

Then there’s the artist plat­form. This is work scat­tered through­out the build­ing and pool­side by in­di­vid­ual artists and per­form­ers, hand-picked by a vet­ting com­mit­tee, and typ­i­cally not rep­re­sented by a gallery. Through­out the fair, many of the artists will be on hand to talk about their art.

It’s less in­tim­i­dat­ing than it sounds, and kind of fun. Just bring an open mind as well as this guide to some of the fair’s mul­ti­far­i­ous faces.

The num­ber and na­ture of (e)merge ex­hibitors has changed an­nu­ally, with a greater em­pha­sis this year on in­ter­na­tional gal­leries and lo­cal al­ter­na­tive spa­ces out­num­ber­ing tra­di­tional Wash­ing­ton gal­leries. One con­stant is Am­s­tel Gallery, a photograph­y-fo­cused space in Am­s­ter­dam that again will be show­cas­ing the work of

Agniet Snoep, a Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher whose slightly creepy art has proved strangely pop­u­lar ev­ery year. Al­though Snoep’s work has never sold dur­ing pre­vi­ous fairs, Am­s­tel di­rec­tor Pe­tra Leene says a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of in­quiries have trick­led in months later from buy­ers who re­mem­ber the work from (e)merge.

Snoep, a dis­tant rel­a­tive of 17th-cen­tury Dutch painter Am­bro­sius Boss­chaert, will be rep­re­sented by her eerily beau­ti­ful pho­tos of dead an­i­mals that ap­pear to be sleep­ing. The im­ages will be pre­sented along­side Claire Feli­cie’s black-and-white portraits of young Dutch marines be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter tours of duty in Afghanista­n; and black-and-white shots of beau­ti­ful young women whose faces are marked by a plas­tic sur­geon’s pen.

Snoep’s sur­real — even dis­turb­ing — style is a good fit for the fair, says Leene, who de­scribes the vibe in the mid-cen­tury mod­ern ho­tel, de­signed by Mor­ris Lapidus, as evoca­tive of David Lynch’s bizarre 1990s tele­vi­sion se­ries “Twin Peaks.” The de­scrip­tion is apt; there’s an in­ef­fa­ble weird­ness (in a good way) to wan­der­ing around ho­tel rooms filled with video, per­for­mance and odd­ball in­stal­la­tions.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: LARRY COOK; AN­DREW WODZIAN­SKI; AGNIET SNOEP/AM­S­TEL GALLERY; CHUKWUMAA AGUBOKWU; JA­SON MAN­DELLA; ANN-MARIE VANTAS­SELL

MARC ER­WIN BABEJ

Far right: Marc Babej’s pho­to­graphic project “Mask of Per­fec­tion” fea­tures im­ages of beau­ti­ful young women whose faces have been marked by a plas­tic sur­geon’s pen.

AGNIET SNOEP

Right: Agniet Snoep’s pho­tos show dead an­i­mals that ap­pear to be sleep­ing.

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