Washington, DC, is a weird and fucked up place. While it’s true we host some of the best art museums in the country, we also unfortunately host the virus known as the U.S. Congress, whose main task is to
kill you kill art funding. OK, so maybe it’s not their main task, but it’s certainly a task, as last month the House voted 217-209 to reduce the budget again for the National Endowment for the Arts. Yes, these assholes would like to see art get got, or actually, not get got. See, under their plan, they’d cut an additional $20.5 million from the NEA budget in FY2011, which would make for a the total cut of $43 million if you take into account the cut already proposed by the Obama Administration (I guess hope doesn’t extend to the arts…). That sucks balls.
But I digress. I didn’t hop off on that tangent simply to complain about the deplorable state of public art funding in this country (that deserves a rant with much more swearing in it); I mentioned it to demonstrate the schizophrenic way this city approaches art. It defies logic that we manage to host such great art museums in a community that generally undervalues art.
Which is why when I read a press release last week about a new DC-based art fair, (e)merge, I felt a little conflicted. Is DC really ready for its own fair?
Let’s get to the real talk—DC isn’t a cultural center. While we’ve had some shining stars in music (The Dismemberment Plan, Fugazi, Wale), we failed hard when we tried to celebrate it, ahem, DMV Awards. Fashion is even worse off here. Sure, we have a few designers of note (OK, all we have is DURKL), but DC Fashion Week is a joke.
So, what will be different in regards to an art fair, especially a fair that hopes to specialize in emerging artists? Will it be all Corcoran students? Will good local private galleries (the amount of which I can pretty much count on my hands) actually attend? More importantly, will out-of-town galleries come? Remember, art fairs costs thousands for participating galleries. And judging from DC’s booming art market (NOT!), it’s hard for this art blogger to imagine anyone giving up a chance to get into one of the New York fairs (or anywhere else) to come here.
It’s also hard to imagine someone still using a mid-1990s catchphrase in 2011, but rest assured I used it to prove a point. See, my utterance of “NOT!” was very much on purpose. I’m a self-aware writer. I understand sarcasm, irony and the need to choose language wisely. Had I said “NOT!” without this hint of self-aware retrocity (and, yes, I just knowingly used a made-up word), I probably would not be as effective a wordsmith.
Now let’s extend this metaphor to DC. This city has no idea what it is and isn’t capable of. This total lack of self-awareness led to the disastrous DMV Awards, the catastrophic Fashion Week, etc. Will (e)merge be different? I hope to all that is not totally embarrassing and shitty that it is because, dang, I’m tired of DC’s bullshit, but I don’t know. Like I said, DC’s got a reputation that it unfortunately doesn’t know about to uphold, and from what I can tell, as someone with an ear to the ground, this reputation isn’t conducive to a significant, meaningful, worthwhile, not embarrassingly bad art fair. Here’s to hopefully being wrong…