Valentine Ryabov (art critic, gallery owner). Notes of the Art Naples and Sarasota Sea Fair` 2012 participant. Florida, USA. This was our second trip to America with the “Sergey Fedotov” project. The first visit was in January 2012.
A few words about the trip when our gallery participated in the international art fair Art Palm Beach 2012. Quite a reputable event I must admit. The West Palm Beach Convention Center gathered galleries from 10 countries: England, Holland, Israel, France, Italy, Ireland, Iraq, Moldavia, USA, Russia – The Valentine Ryabov Gallery. We arrived with the “Sergey Fedotov” project and the recently published album of his paintings. We came to a gracious but an absolutely different world, where we were to find partners and colleagues. Find our place. So we started working. First of all we checked in to the nearby hotel, and then drove to the Convention Center and unloaded boxes with Sergey Fedotov’s paintings from our spacious rented minivan. The setup of the exposition was scheduled for the next day, so we decided to take a look at the ocean. It was also a good means to come to consciousness after a 23 hour flight 11 of which were over the ocean and a transfer in Rome. The ocean, as it turned out, does wonders for the exhausted nervous system. Later on we took oceanic baths every day before the opening of the show. We got up at 7.24 A.M., had breakfast, and off to the ocean, a good thing it was only 8 minutes away and at 11.30 we were at our booth waiting for the visitors of the fair.
Going back to the processes at the art space of the exhibition pavilion, I can state that there are no dribs and drabs to it. The American public is used to having things straight and clear to the detail. And the sequence of bright flashes of open color and unusual forms with attributes of mass culture is a guarantee of interest to your exposition. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s the entity that one has to either except or leave any thought of working on the art market of the States. We have a saying in Russia “One shouldn’t go to a monastery with his own church discipline”, but despite that, we do just that. It’s probably in our character. Paintings of Sergey Fedotov mostly drew attention of professionals, the general public not having found the above-listed understandable symbols that the eye could catch, politely strolled away. Thanks to our representative in Atlanta, USA Maria Bruckman, we got acquainted with a number of experts at the Art Palm Beach (wonderful English, knowledge of local communication peculiarities and Marias personal charm did the job). And these experts started bringing their guests and collectors to our stand describing the artistic manner of painting of the talented Russian painter.
We did our best to acquire any information we could get about the specific character of the art market, methods and forms of presentation of the visual images etc. One of the founders of surrealism Salvador Dali, having moved to America during the war, had to change his artistic manner with consideration of the mentality of the American public. The task of an artist, in particular, consists of conveying to the audience the images, thoughts and his energy, that he spills out on the canvas at moments of inspiration, if of course, the artist, forgive my rudeness, doesn’t work for the trash can. Create the form that will bring the admirer to you and later he will see the content. Without clear stimulus - there will be no dialog neither in the present nor in the future (please don’t confuse this with the birch trees and flowers of the painters-handcrafters at the Krimskaya embankment in Moscow). It’s of course a delicate issue, but that’s what the team of experts by the name of The Valentine Ryabov Gallery is for. Summarizing the results of the four days in West Palm Beach, I can positively say that they were spent with use. First of all we made a step on the very tight and complicated American art market. Secondly, we received valuable information that can’t be obtained theoretically, while sitting in an armchair hundreds of miles away on another continent. Thirdly, we made the acquaintance with organizers of other programs that allowed us, in particular, to participate in Art Naples and Sarasota on very attractive terms. Fourthly, we got to be known and Russian art is now also associated with craftsmanship and talent of a contemporary artist Sergey Fedotov.
Fifthly, what was not planned at all, we were able to meet with the son and heir of a talented Russian painter, Honored artist of Russia Ekaterina Grigoryeva (1940-2003). And as a result of our negotiations we were able to return the collection of her paintings to Russia. 23 paintings of Ekaterina Grigoryeva were demonstrated in our gallery right after the return of the collection. The exhibition was dedicated to the painter’s birthday.
Now about our second trip to America. I must state that we made important conclusions after our previous trip, but had no euphoria about possible future successes. Simply work. We of course considered the constructive advice and recommendations of our American colleagues, and the new collection of Sergey Fedotovs’ paintings, with an absolutely new exposition concept arrived to the American continent. So we are back in Miami, from where we are to head to the West coast of Florida to a town under the name of Naples. Late at night we stopped at a small hotel with king size beds, one of the advantages of American hotels that allow you to get a good night’s sleep after a long journey. In the morning we had no trouble finding the exhibition hall on Immokale Road and repeated the well-known unloading of the paintings procedure, but that wasn’t the last of it. Our exhibition project included a video film of the sacramental process of Sergey Fedotov’s creation of his artworks in his workshop. The video was edited from the earlier filmed material and had subtitles in English. A striking, dynamic, somewhat even funny film was supposed to draw extra attention to our booth. All we had to do was buy a 40 “ monitor, a stand for it and two pedestals for sculptures (forgot to mention that we decided to show two sculptures of the patriarch of the Soviet underground Nicolay Silis). But why buy and not rent from the organizers? Simple math: daily rent of a monitor is $120, which makes it $1200 for 10 days of the two shows, plus stand rent approx. $1200 which brings the total sum to $2400, at the same time the purchase of the above mentioned equipment costs only $590!!! And above all you can return the stuff back to the store if you have a sales check, the goods are not damaged, and the packaging is safe.
The film, I must admit, shown as part of our project, truly served as a bridge that helped the spectators come to understand Sergey Fedotov’s art, and helped the public approach the gallery staff at the stand. At the moment when the video clip caught attention of our guests they got the impression of understanding the process of creation of a painting that in turn, helped to overcome physiological barriers. As for our exposition at Art Naples 2012, I can state that it was a success. Of course the center of our exposition was “The portrait of a painter”. Its dynamic color texture, excepted by the American public, and the psychology of the image, that covered the American spectator with a second wave after they had the courage to approach the canvas. One of the visitors of the show spent a long time standing in front of the painting, carefully studying the canvas, then approached me and asked sharply: -Tell me is he mad? - Yes! – said I shortly. -Thanks for the paintings, - thanked me the unknown guest and left as fast as he appeared. There were a lot of interesting encounters, but altogether the show failed. Something went wrong. Maybe the organizers saved on advertising; maybe the event itself is too young, maybe the economic crisis made a contribution, I’m not to judge…
On March 27 after the end of the exhibition we continued our journey to Sarasota to the Sea Fair 2012 art show that took place on a yacht. Another 120 miles and we are facing a beautiful port with snow white yachts, but our mega-dream boat was nowhere to be seen!? Thank God it was simply late! The ship entered port and the enchanted spectators enjoyed the process of its slow and fluent docking. As of this moment our Sea Fair 2012 commenced. The ship is specially equipped with exhibition pavilions with superb lighting and hanging systems, not to mention restaurants, air conditioning and toilets. The main advantage of exhibition pavilions on a yacht is that the guests will inevitably visit your exposition - a certain enfilade of chamber halls. But a new challenge emerged. The hall configuration demanded a principal change in hanging the paintings, quite different than the one we used in Naples, and at least two more paintings were needed to make it work. The solution was in our “stabilization fund” of Sergey Fedotov’s paintings that were situated in Atlanta with our gallery’s partner Maria Bruckman. She arranged fast delivery of four paintings, two of which were immediately displayed on our stand and the two others were displayed in turns. A possibility to make changes in the project during the exhibition tour gives you substantial advantages, effecting the overall assessment of the exposition by the public, and consequently of each painting. The VIP and press preview gathered a large amount of public and it was difficult to understand the preferences of those who visited our pavilion. All the paintings were objects of interest: Sergey Fedotov’s self-portraits, his nudes, “Sunflowers”, and of course, “The portrait of a painter”. Preferences were on the side of the symbol of the 2006 Federation Building the pink Nu, and the astonishing in its beauty “Portrait of a painter”. The image of a man torn apart with inner contradictions, absolutely openhearted and defenseless in this world, was painted by the artist a few days after his close friends’ tragic death. In many occasions modern public doubts the sincerity of an artist, but not this time. There was a line of people to the portrait. Forgive my saying so, but I involuntarily compare this painting with the famous Leonardo Davinchi’s “Mona Lisa”.
The next day we had a significant encounter. A very energetic man entered our stand and started studying Fedotov’s artworks, doing it fast and professionally, after doing so he asked Maria a few questions. This is when we found out who it was. Sergey Fedotov’s paintings drew the attention of Mr. Bruce Helander, editor- en-chef of “The Art Economist” magazine. He noted the positive impression of our exposition and didn’t exclude the possibility of publishing an article about Sergey Fedotov in his magazine. Quite a serious assessment of the artwork of the painter and efforts of the gallery! Each day on the yacht was filled with interesting encounters and contacts. But I must admit once again that the public, that visited the boat, was not interested in complicated, intellectual art. It’s probably the drawbacks of our times…