With Mystery Tattoos, Sustainably Minded Sculptures, and Gold-Accented Concert Posters, the Seattle Art Fair Revels in an Eclectic Selection

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At this year’s Seattle Art Fair, there is art for every budget—including those who literally can’t afford to spend a penny, courtesy of Dinos Chapman, who is offering free tattoos of new works of art he is making up on the spot. The catch? Recipients aren’t allowed to see the design until after its completion.

“You pay nothing—just you might have something horrible on your arm,” Chapman told Artnet News.

The British artist, now based in Los Angeles, has done performances at fairs before, drawing insulting portraits and defacing bank notes with brother Jake Chapman, with whom he split professionally last year. But the Seattle Art Fair (which kicked off on July 27 and runs through through July 30 at the Lumen Field Event Center) was the first one to agree to let him set up a glory-hole style tattoo station—titled —with the only restriction being that the tattoos not contain anything obscene.

Kate Lovejoy gets a tattoo designed by Dinos Chapman, site unseen, through a glory hole at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Kate Lovejoy gets a tattoo designed by Dinos Chapman, sight unseen, through a glory hole at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Chapman has been in the hot seat himself—and wasn’t so lucky when he let a tattoo artist and friend who is responsible for most of his 13 tattoos ink him with the design of his choosing.

“It took four hours, and I didn’t know what it was until it was finished. He managed to convince me he’d tattooed a cock on my chest. But it was actually a devil’s anus, and I was slightly disappointed as I had gotten used to the idea of a cock,” Chapman recalled. (That said, it’s not even his least favorite tattoo. That would be the words “I’m with idiot” on Chapman’s bicep, below a finger pointing to his chest.)

At the Seattle fair, with local tattoo artist Colin O’Shaughnessy Tucker manning the tattoo gun, Chapman expects to execute 18 to 20 tattoos during the run of the fair, drawing a new design on the spot for each participant. (All of the slots were full ahead of the VIP preview thanks to pre-registration.)

Kate Lovejoy sees her tattoo designed by Dinos Chapman for the first time at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Kate Lovejoy sees her tattoo designed by Dinos Chapman for the first time at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Fairgoer Kate Lovejoy, an education director at an area art school, signed up because “it seemed like an invitation to interact with regret,” she told Artnet News. “I enjoyed the process of thinking about whether I had regrets or not.”

In the end, there wasn’t so much chagrin as joy: “It’s beautiful! I love it so much!” Lovejoy proclaimed after pulling her arm back through the hole to see the finished tattoo of a strange geometric creature.

It was Chapman’s first visit to the Seattle Art Fair, which launched in 2015 and is now in its seventh edition. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the fair returned in 2022 under new management by Art Market Productions, which took over from the late founder Paul Allen’s now-defunct Vulcan Arts and Entertainment.

The Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

The Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

This year’s outing features some 70 international dealers—down from over 100 exhibitors pre-Covid—hailing from as far afield as Japan, Argentina, and the U.K., as well as a strong contingent of Pacific Northwest and West Coast galleries.

Perhaps the most unexpected was Fotowat Atelier, of Isfahan, Iran, which was selling jewel-like miniatures by owner Mostafa Fotovat, his daughter Atefeh Fotovat, and his other students.

“These are done on camel bone with natural pigments: lapis lazuli, skin of pomegranate, saffron,” Atefeh Fotovat told Artnet News.

Persian miniatures from Fotovat Atelier at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Persian miniatures from Fotovat Atelier at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

At only their third U.S. fair after outings in San Francisco and the Hamptons, the gallery was doing brisk business for delicate figurative and animal paintings and decorated boxes, priced between $500 and $8,500.

Across the fair, most of the offerings were contemporary, with a smattering of mid-to-late 20th-century works dotting the aisles. The admitted “odd man out” had to be Chicago’s Galerie Fledermaus, where a rare print of Gustav Klimt’s  priced at $125,000 was the centerpiece.

Jerry Suqi of Chicago's Galerie Fledermaus shows off rare portfolio of Gustav Klimt prints. at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Jerry Suqi of Chicago’s Galerie Fledermaus shows off a rare portfolio of Gustav Klimt prints at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

“We show a mix of historic and contemporary with a unified aesthetic that happens to span 150 years,” director Jerry Suqi told Artnet News.

was on offer alongside the full portfolio of calotype prints the artist had produced between 1908 and 1914 using as many as 18 etched-glass plates to create each image. But among the booth’s early sales was the $18,500 gilded charcoal drawing (2023), a darkly romantic figurative work by 33-year-old artist Alessandra Maria.

Alessandra Maria, <em>Sofia Summoning Spring</em> (2023). Courtesy of Galerie Fledermaus.

Alessandra Maria,  (2023). Courtesy of Galerie Fledermaus.

The fair also boasted an impressive selection of special projects, including a hanging mobile in the form of a model of the solar system by Jeffrey Gibson titled , presented by the ICA San Francisco and New York gallery Sikkema Jenkins.

The impressive piece, which was was always going to be a showstopper, was even buzzier thanks to Gibson having been announced earlier that day as the U.S. representative for the 2024 Venice Biennale.

Jeffrey Gibson, <em>The Many Worlds</em>, presented by the ICA San Francisco and New York gallery Sikkema Jenkins at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Jeffrey Gibson, , presented by the ICA San Francisco and New York gallery Sikkema Jenkins at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Another standouts in that sector was Seattle-born Marita Dingus’s (2022–23), a series of suspended figurative sculptures crafted by the feminist African American artist from found materials.

“Marita has been a very important artist here in Seattle for more than 30 years,” said dealer Sarah Traver, founder of Seattle’s Traver Gallery. “People have come to know that she uses found and discarded materials, so she gets gifted a lot of things when people are cleaning out attics or garages. And Marita, more than any other artist I know, really embodies her work. She makes all her own clothes and she’s really conscious of her own consumption.”

As the first day of the fair drew to a close, Traver was pleased with the initial results, citing sales of several of Dingus’s works, which start at $800 and go up to $20,000. “It’s been really busy in here,” she said.

Marita Dingus, <em>Where the Castoffs Grow Materials</em>, presented by Seattle's Traver Gallery at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Marita Dingus, (2022–23), presented by Seattle’s Traver Gallery at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Walking the aisles on the bustling opening night, which attracted 5,000 visitors, you would never know that the fair’s future had once been uncertain.

The evening featured spirited live performances of local artist Tariqa Waters’s new educational TV talk show, . A large, boisterous crowd gathered to watch acts roller-skate dancing to the tune of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” at a colorful performance lounge, which featured a Lucy-from–style booth advertising psychiatric help for 5¢.

Tariqa Waters, <em>Thank You Ms Pam</em> at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

Tariqa Waters, at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Ben Yan, courtesy of the Seattle Art Fair.

There were even crowd-control measures in place at New York’s Harman Projects, where master screen printer Chuck Sperry—famed for his concert posters for acts like the Queens of the Stone Age, the Who, and Dave Matthews Band—was releasing print editions of five new works. The artist had also delved into his archive for the occasion, selling rare test prints and back stock of older designs.

“Chuck prints them all by hand. He makes his own emulsions and custom colors. It’s pretty fascinating,” dealer Ken Harman told Artnet News.

Sperry’s poster career began 30 years ago, but about 12 years ago, travels in Europe inspired him to begin creating his own independent designs, influenced by the work of artists like Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Klimt.

Gallery director Raul Barquet, artist Chuck Sperry, and gallery owner Ken Harman at the booth of New York's Harmon Gallery at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Gallery director Raul Barquet, artist Chuck Sperry, and gallery owner Ken Harman at the booth of New York’s Harmon Gallery at the Seattle Art Fair. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

“I’m using oil-based inks with gold and silver metallics that I mix from powdered pigment, with colored glazes overlaying transparently,” Sperry told Artnet News. “I like to think that I’m elevating the concert poster to fine art. And it’s very gratifying when the fans of my older work get turned on to what I’m doing now.”

Brice Bielaski of Auburn, Washington, got to the fair at 4 p.m. and was still waiting for his turn to make a purchase four hours later. “I’ll be happy with anything they have left,” he told Artnet News. ” All of Chuck’s work is very collectible.”

“We have more,” gallery director Raul Barquet assured Artnet News. “We were expecting this!”

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