CIRCA 2006, or as we like to joke, CIRCO dos mil seis, is coming to the Centro de Convenciones in San Juan. Stay tuned. This newly minted, much hyped art fair promises to be yet another step—a pratfall perhaps, though we sincerely hope not—down the slippery slope to an art-fair-driven world.
We’ve been warned by the organizers to take this event very seriously. And we do, we do.
If you ever wondered how they fill the musty void of the Big Tent with the glad-handing, high-finish art fair bustle CIRCA so keenly desires, here is a peek at the process.
I had no intention of getting caught up in the fair’s maelstrom until it was well underway. But this morning I got a call from a friend from New York, Rafael Vargas Suárez, who is showing a couple of his densely schematic, mural-size drawings as part of a special project at CIRCA, curated by globe-trotting art whiz, Paco Barragán. Rafael just wanted to say hello, but this seemed like the perfect moment to find out what the Rotund staff is really made of, journalistic steel or just green cheese. I managed to pry myself out of the stuffy Rotund offices, with their oppressive modorro induced by creaking overhead fans and squadrons of dive-bombing mosquitos, and head out.
However caustic I’ve been about CIRCA so far, I have to admit I’m having an unexpectedly good time. Today I ran into a lot of friends I hadn’t seen for what seems like forever, though it’s only been a year since we left Miami. And the mood at el centro was amazingly upbeat, considering that many of the visiting galleries’ art works were inexplicably, maddeningly stuck in customs. There was no divaesque tantrum-throwing as far as I could see, just a lot of intent worker bees, stunned-looking recent arrivals, and art dealers sniffing the air, mostly with the look of expectant spaniels.
There was something even more pleasing than the jolly atmosphere in the midst of impending chaos, however—was that co-organizer Elvis Fuentes, actually smiling from across the loading dock even as he paced, sweating profusely and yakking into his cel phone like a man making his last confession?—the fact that nothing I saw hit a false note. I came across a few finished or nearly-finished works, like Vargas Suárez’ drawings and the human scale puzzle-labyrinth inside of which Miamian Glexis Nova has penciled some of his airy, minutely detailed horizon lines. Like Novoa’s mysteriously trussed and balloon-borne characters, we seem to float above and away from the islands that populate these sparse tableaux, or are we drifting towards them? On the other side of the hall, Arnaldo Morales stood amidst parts of one of his ferocious, chromium destructo-machine sculptures, still in dangerous-looking pieces, while he, too, manhandled recalcitrant booth walls.
Understandably, I guess, the range of participants is heavy on the Borinquen and Miami side, and there are no doubt people you wished you’d see. But for today, a day that’s probably too early to tell and certainly too soon to place bets, I’m blowing Rotund kisses to the fair’s organizers for their impeccable intentions and admirable execution.
For a more or less complete picture of who’s who and what the hay, visit the CIRCA website. Whatever else you do, don’t miss the opportunity to visit with American photographer Andres Serrano at the fair from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 26.
It’s possible that this chronicle will continue daily, but more likely once or twice more during CIRCA’s run. Write to Rotund World at this address and tell us whether you think the clown above (a) improves the look of CIRCA’s logo, (b) really screws it up and shows a distasteful lack of respect for nice people trying really hard, or (c) is just one more mystifying slap in the face to the often baffled and well-nigh fed up Rotund readership.
Cheapjack, unhandsome booths, non-functioning lighting, art from abroad stuck in customs until just hours before the opening: the mood must have been very ugly in the CIRCA madhouse before it opened its doors to the public. But by the time the fair got underway, only Chicken Little would have had the bad form to cluck.
True, the steam was still rising from a few vexed heads as the crowds swung into action, but with the first lordly gazes at labels and the jingling of pocket change, calculations began to fly and the bad vibes flew away.
As you can imagine, opening night at CIRCA provided quite a contrast to the desultory scene of the day before. The crowds were substantial, if not a mob, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. Part of this was due to the presence of that fleet-tongued 21st century Caruso, El Residente, much adored by the artmob and endlessly willing to chat and pose for photographs, but I share the opinion of my friend Rafael that this art fair has a highly sophisticated look, without being unfriendly. On the contrary. It’s art and it’s fun. “I’m amazed,” Vargas Suárez said. “I’m seeing stuff I’ve never seen before and artists I’ve never heard of. It’s a very edgy fair, unlike almost any fair I’ve been to.”