With its opening just a little more than three weeks away, the (e)merge Art Fair today announced the more than 80 exhibitors that will appear in its inaugural edition, which runs Sept. 22 to 25 at the Capitol Skyline hotel in Washington, D.C. While most presenters are emerging-artist-focused galleries from the surrounding area and East Coast, a handful are coming from further away.
“Washington is known as a museum place, but word has been trickling out that this is also a contemporary art place,” (e)merge co-organizer Leigh Conner told The Observer. “D.C. is ready for this.”
Ms. Conner is a longtime booster for contemporary art in the capital city, having co-founded the Conner Contemporary Art gallery there in 1999. She is heading (e)merge with Jamie Smith, with whom she co-founded Conner, and Helen Allen, the founder of the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair.
Galleries account for about half of the 80 exhibitors, while independent artists constitute the other half. Artists exhibit for free at the hotel, which is owned by the art-collecting Rubell family. Galleries pay $4,700 to exhibit for the weekend, a bargain compared to the cost of showing at major blue-chip fairs like Art Basel, where space can run easily into the tens of thousands of dollars. Ms. Conner said that the fair received 400 total applications for the fair.
Among the exhibitors making the trip are D.C. galleries Transformer, Curator’s Office, Connor Contemporary Art and Irvine Contemporary, New York spaces Josee Bienvenu Gallery and White Columns (its director, Matthew Higgs is an adviser for the fair) and presenters from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan, Vancouver and Vienna. The complete list of exhibitors is available through (e)merge’s website.
Though a handful of deep-pocketed collectors maintain residences in D.C., their presence has not traditionally translated into a strong local commercial gallery scene. “With the economic downturn, you’re finding people not moving to the major art capitals,” Ms. Conner said, describing the state of contemporary art in Washington. “People are staying where they are and building communities there.”
How, The Observer asked Ms. Conner, will the organizers judge the success of the fair? “We already consider it a success,” she replied. “We have 80 exhibitors on two platforms. We have a terrific base to grow.”