The 10 Pieces of Art You See at Every Art Fair Ever


We amused ourselves over the weekend trawling around the Armory Show and the Volta Art Fair, and while we do always enjoy wandering around art fairs looking at art (and, even better, looking at the people who are looking at art), we tend to notice that after a while we start to see the same sorts of works again and again. These are perhaps indicative of trends in contemporary art, or perhaps there are only so many ideas to go around. So if you weren’t up for shelling out the $30 for an Armory ticket, never fear — here’s a lighthearted look at the works of art you’ll be able to see again next year. And the year after. And…

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Fucking Beautiful, neon and amplifier, 2000

Neon text art

There must be some sort of unspoken art-show quota that dictates that every biennial/art fair/etc. has to contain at least one piece that involves neon tubes spelling out words. We have nothing against the idea per se, although really there are only so many neon slogans you can read before you start wondering whether a concept that was kinda cool decades ago — hi, Bruce Nauman; hi, Tracey Emin — might be exhausted. (Our own Marina Galperina ended up making a catalog of them at the Armory last year, from which the above photo is taken.)

Generic Art Solutions, The Raft, archival digital print on photographic paper, 2010

Something referencing a classic painting

Hey, look who went to art school!

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Lawrence Malstaff, Conversation, arduino microcontrollers, infrared sensors, chairs, 2012

A floor-based installation involving everyday objects that confuses everyone

True story: your correspondent once visited the Tate Modern while one of its rooms was being renovated. The tradesmen clearly weren’t working on Sunday, and they’d stashed some of their tools in the middle of the semi-demolished space. The resultant spectacle attracted quite the crowd of chin-stroking onlookers, with several debating the use of space and the meaning behind the arrangement of discarded handsaws, power drills, hammers, etc. Yes, this is ALL TRUE. (Also: these things are even more confusing if they involve chairs, because exhausted visitors always end up sitting on them.)

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Robert Daniels, Ancestors Chamber, mixed media, 2012

Something inscrutable from Africa or Central Asia that rich American art people find very meaningful

Often has the word “ancestors” in its title. Everyone stares at it solemnly. Everyone agrees it is deeply moving. Everyone feels better about themselves for appreciating (if not quite understanding) it.

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Mike Bidlo, The Fountain Drawings #1886, pencil on paper, 1993-1997

Something referencing Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain

A wry, playful statement on the malleability of the very concept of “art,” acknowledging the Deleuzeian concept of difference and repetition, and questioning the notion of artist-as-creator and the fluidity of what we consider to be originality. Or, y’know, a picture of a pisser.

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Chuck Close, Brad, Woodburytype, 2012

A large photograph of someone famous

Ideally with a title that makes no reference to the name of the celebrity in question, as a comment on the ubiquity of celebrity culture and etc.

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Long Bin-Chen, Buddha DNA, sculpted Manhattan phone books, 2004

Something made out of books or magazines

Because everybody loves books, right?!

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Marinella Senatore, ROSAS: The Division of Labor, 2012

A video installation that requires headphones

We always feel bad for the artists who make these because, with a gazillion other artworks just sitting there on the wall to be stared at, no one ever watches them from start to finish. See also: anything involving an iPad, and anything involving a vintage Super 8 projector.

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Tim Nobel and Sue Webster, Dirty White Trash (with Gulls), 1998

Something made out of reclaimed trash

Because global warming.

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Something by a forlorn painter who does “real” paintings

Usually marooned down the back near the toilets, unacknowledged, unloved. The artist himself is often found in the bar, saying nasty things about Tracey Emin. (Yes, her again.)

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