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The Other Art Fair, Brooklyn: big dreams + friendship

How do you approach your dreams? Some people set life goals, go for them and achieve them. Full disclosure – I am not one of this super human breed. I find that my intuition gets a little noisy and decides something is a good idea. Then I set something in motion and before you know it, I am sneaking up on a BIG DREAM, pretending I am doing something else entirely. At this point my inner critic gets very loud and turns into a shouting chimpanzee. Luckily it is easily distracted by bananas, friends and ‘happy chicken music’ so that I can get on with doing THE WORK.

Deciding to apply, and then do, The Other Art Fair in Brooklyn was like giving a big heavy boulder a tiny little nudge out of curiosity, just to see what would happen, and then sprinting to keep up with it as it gathered speed. Making the work, shipping it, navigating UK and US customs (where my work got stuck on both sides) and four months of nausea inducing anxiety later I found myself flying into New York with two suitcases full of back up work (in case the large pieces didn’t get out of customs in time).

Walking the west side of New York City, looking across to Jersey

For the first part of my trip I stayed in residence with Village West Gallery in my capacity as Collaborative Partnerships Manager for Be Smart About Art. That meant that a few hours after landing, I found myself speeding over the Brooklyn Bridge in a cab with the night view of Manhattan rushing towards me, lights ablaze. It was a movie star moment. A cascade of excitement washed over me. I wanted to leap out of the cab and stand there for hours soaking it all in but time and traffic had other ideas. I spent the first three days with Village West Gallery staying with Robinson and Jim in their extraordinary home above the Gallery. Robinson also founded 14 C Art Fair, an art fair for Jersey City which took place for the first time in March this year at the Hyatt Hotel. Unusually, the Fair does not take any commission so the galleries and artists exhibiting just pay for their rooms. The second fair will take place in February next year and promises to be another great success (keep an eye out for applications opening soon).

Jennifer Krause Chapeau (left) in her studio at Mana Contemporary with Robinson Holloway (Gallery owner, Village West Gallery and Director of Art Fair 14 C)

I spent the first couple of days visiting Mana Contemporary, the Met, Liberty State Park, sorting last minute framing and chatting to my generous and fascinating hosts. I moved over to Brooklyn on Wednesday to stay with Air B and B hosts one of whom serendipitously happened to be an artist and professor at NYU.

There is an extraordinary sense of community at the heart of all the fairs. Roughly 12 UK based artists had flown over to do the Other Art Fair in Brooklyn. It felt like a home away from home. During the Fair I met numerous wonderful artists. Two new artist friends deserve a particular mention – my opposite neighbour in the fair was Birgit Huttemann-Holz, a german artist now living in Detroit. We bonded over a shared love of process. Birgit uses an aluminium plate to create expressive monoprints vibrant with colour. I was also adopted by the British born and now Brooklyn based photographer David Pexton. David’s enthusiasm and warmth saw him introducing me to all the friends who had travelled to support him for the weekend. His work is playful and thought provoking, often with an underlying wry sense of humour – a captured pause in the flow of things.

I have written previously on the intensity of a fair: the rollercoaster of emotions, the intimate connection one has with collectors, the hugs and friendship kindled through shared stories of inspiration and process. Exhibiting at an international fair, one feels an acute sense of vulnerability, the stakes are higher both practically in terms of financial investment as well as emotionally. One’s ego quivers, exposed without the usual comforts and reassurances of home.

During the course of four days collectors, gallerists, visitors and other artists exchange ideas. One feels impregnated by the joy of listening and seeing people fall in love with art over and over again. It is such a privilege to witness this happening on other people’s as well as my own stand. At the end of each day, in the late evening the artists often eat together, exchange stories, decompress, explore and play. One experiences a lot of love and generosity as well as a rich sense of kinship and shared understanding.

It is highly addictive, so a week and a half of incredible humans, conversations, art, places and sunshine later – I have forgotten ever being worried and just want to do it all over again….

Thank you to everyone who visited, fell in love with paintings and took them home. Brooklyn, I had a blast – please may I come back?