Since it was announced that Bushwick Open Studios will be taking place in October and not on their usual summer date, a couple fledgling fests have tried to fill the void. There’s been the Bushwick Arts Festival, which was a bit of a letdown, and the Bushwick Galleries Association’s Hot Summer Nights of extended hours, which are great but for galleries only. So when we heard tell of a new Bushwick art festival called the Bushwick Open Art Fair, we were skeptical. What would make their “Bears on Bicycles”-themed fair different from the other upstarts? But then the organizers told us they’re “currently looking into the permits required to have live animals at the show.”
That’s right, Marina Reiter of the East Village’s Studio 26 Gallery and Doug Hollier of Bushwick’s New Apostle Gallery are taking the “Bears on Bicycles” theme for serious. And while they’re planning to throw the fair concurrent to BoS and not before (86 more sleeps!), we wanted to know more. (If only to bask in the irony that the year BoS reschedules in order to seem less circus-like, a circus-themed art fair attempts to ride its coattails.)
Reiter, an abstract foil painter originally from Moscow, and Hollier, a post-pop artist originally from England, are both practicing artists in Bushwick and have seen their fair share of… fairs. In fact, the last time we bumped into Hollier, whose murals grace the facades of various Brooklyn buildings, he was showing off his clever portraits of David Bowie and Iggy Pop at Select Fair. “We have a good knowledge of the international art fair scene and how it’s kind of developed over the last 10 years,” he told us more recently, adding that a fair is where he met Reiter last December– at Aqua Art Miami.
They’ve kept in touch since then, and while walking near Hollier’s Starr Street home one night, remarked that the defunct window frame manufacturing building across the street would make for a fine art fair venue. “That’s how the idea got started,” said Hollier. Then in another conversation– Hollier doesn’t know how they got on the subject– Reiter mentioned that circuses in China and Russia still have performing bears on bicycles. “So we came up with the idea of calling it ‘Bears on Bicycles’ and giving it sort of a circus extravaganza theme,” he said. The art needn’t be circus-themed, but there will be circus decor and they’re in talks with several performance houses and individual performance artists.
“Although Bushwick has got a big visual arts scene it’s also got a very established performing arts scene. A lot of that is straight-up circus-style stuff,” explained Hollier. Reiter added: “If you go to a lot of performing venues in Bushwick, you come across a lot of carnival scenes, performances, burlesque. This is everything that comes to mind when you mention ‘Bushwick performing arts.’ So we thought that would be a really good idea for the first inaugural edition of the art fair, that kind of embodies the Bushwick performing arts atmosphere.” Not to mention Hollier is a bit of a Barnum & Bailey history buff, regaling us with how up until the ’50s, the “Greatest Show on Earth” stopped its big tops near Myrtle/Wyckoff. He’s also “personally fascinated by [P.T. Barnum’s] originally advertising strategies.” Erego the live animal permit enquiries.
Hollier said the inspirational window manufacturing building has been promised to a wall-climbing gym developer, but they found an approximately 20,000-square-foot former commercial/industrial facility between the Morgan and Jefferson L train stops. They launched their website Friday, are now accepting exhibitor applications, and are hoping to see submissions from both New York and international galleries. “We want to engage the blue chip galleries, but instead of showing just the typical expo-style convention center model, we want to incorporate the Bushwick scene,” said Reiter, with Hollier adding that “that’s the kind of key point. It’s giving international blue chip galleries the opportunity to present their artists’ work in the current avant-garde Bushwick scene, and creating a Bushwick theme that they’re not going to get in Switzerland, they’re not going to get in Asia, they’re only going to get it in Bushwick.”
According to a press release, “Bears on Bicycles” will commence with an invitation-only VIP Preview Extravaganza on Thursday, September 29th at 3 pm. The VIP Preview Extravaganza will run until 6 pm, at which time the art fair will open to the public. The fair is slated to run through Sunday, October 2nd.