They heard you. So D.C. gallerists Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith have added a pop-up restaurant and transportation options for this year’s (E)merge Art Fair at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in Southwest Washington. And they are improving lighting and traffic flow in the 1960s boutique hotel so guests can navigate the art spaces more easily.
“We’ve gotten a lot of very constructive, helpful feedback from visitors and exhibitors and observers, and we’re making huge efforts to put all of that good feedback into action,” said Smith, who, along with Conner, her partner, have owned Washington’s Connersmith gallery — formerly Lee Conner Contemporary Art — for 13 years.
Starting Oct. 4, 152 emerging artists from 24 countries will exhibit their work at the second year of the (E)merge art festival. Galleries from Vienna and Amsterdam, among others, will make return visits. Newcomers include Servando art gallery and LaHabana from Cuba and Asymmetrik gallery out of New York City.
With more than a dozen productions scheduled, the performance-art menu is robust this year, with artists J.J. McCracken and Holly Bass signing up again. Installation, painting, sculpture, video and other media are prominent as well.
The fair opens with a poolside concert by D.C. band Thievery Corporation, and runs through Oct. 7.
The pop-up restaurant will be provided by Chef’s Lab from the U Street corridor’s Monserrat House. The private Uber car company will make more cars available on opening night, and fairgoers can sign up for the service while at the fair.
By promptly responding to last year’s freshman faux pas, Conner and Smith can focus on the real reasons for this kind of art fair: to get all genres of the art community in the same place, talking.
It’s “the best way we could help give encouragement to artists who are just starting their careers — to give them exposure and give them a chance to make contacts here. D.C. has a really thriving art community,” Smith said.
Another important thing: keeping the cost of art down. On average last year, Conner said, pieces in the $3,000-to-$6,000 range sold quite well.
“We’re hoping that some people who have never bought a piece of art in their life will feel comfortable making their first acquisition at the fair,” Smith said. “We’re trying to make it accessible in terms of being fun and unintimidating.”
“People will get to stand around and engage more with gallerists from all over the world, talk to artists directly and acquire art that’s not prohibitively expensive,” Conner said. “That’s the idea: Go buy a piece of art from a young artist, from a young gallerists.”
For sure, (E)merge doesn’t stick to the normal art fair model “where you get a little white box and you put the art up and sell it,” Conner said.
“There’s more conversation about the art.”
Oct. 4, through Oct. 7 at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 10 I St. SW. Admission is $15, $10 for seniors and students with ID; opening concert, $45 in advance, $60 at the door. For more information visit www.emergeartfair.com.