The colossal success of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002 caused a proliferation of art fairs over the years, and together they have permanently altered the way art is bought and sold. Many of these fairs struggle not to become duplicates of one another. The novice fairgoer must puzzle to select between one or two dozen fairs that descend on a city during a fairgoing weekend, each sporting one- and two-syllable names, gallerina-staffed cubicles full of art, and aspirations to perfect contemporaneity as conceived by non-artist experts.
Enter the Governors Island Art Fair, a refreshing exception to this sometimes wearying exercise. Designed by artists, for artists, it offers an entirely different ethos. "Participation in the fair is free to artists in order to level the playing field,” says Antony Zito, one of the four artist-organizers. "We see who's really out there and then sift through for the hidden gems of our culture."
The hundred artists selected by the fair are each given a room in a disused military barracks on the island to use as he will. Some choose a standard gallery hanging. Others construct elaborate multimedia installations. Common throughout is a do-it-yourself attitude among the artists and a consequently elevated level of approachability.
Every year the programming grows a little richer, and now includes live music, a residency program, and workshops. It has even attracted its own satellite exhibitions. One of the noteworthy ones takes place this weekend, that of paintings by Kamilla Talbot, a gifted landscapist with equal flairs for design and brushwork. Many such jewels lay at the other end of a short ferry ride across the harbor.