Dreading that holiday shopping list? Contemporary art, which can be bought at a variety of prices, could be your next go-to gift this season.
Instead of running around shopping at local galleries, pop-up craft fairs, online or in boutiques, buyers can peruse work by local and nationally recognized artists in one spot: Current Art Fair, which will be held at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Facility from Oct. 24 to 27.
Touted as Central Virginia’s first, and only, art fair, Current returns for its third iteration after a one-year hiatus with 20 galleries hailing from Richmond, Williamsburg, and Washington. It also has new owners and operators: the husband-and wife team B.J. Kocen and Jennifer Glavé, who picked up the baton last year from former director Sarah Irvin.
The couple met in the late 1990s while Kocen, a self-described “song and dance man,” was working as a promotional manager at Ashland Coffee and Tea. With Glavé’s background in art history and fine art, they divided operations for Rentz Gallery in the early 2000s until they opened Glavé Kocen Gallery in September 2007.
“The whole reason why we opened the Glavé Kocen Gallery was because we felt there was a whole niche of people who maybe felt intimidated just even walking into a gallery,” Kocen explains. “Or maybe they just felt like it wasn’t for them, it was just beyond them or because they didn’t take any art history classes that they wouldn’t be able to appreciate it.”
They hope to bring a similar mindset to Current.
One way of making the fair accessible to a broader audience is to mimic amenities from popular events, like the midway of a state fair with its carnival games, exhibitions and other attractions. There will be nine exhibitors — including art demonstrations by Studio Two Three and Art on Wheels as well as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Artmobile — and food trucks. Organizers have converted a space into a theater that will show films selected by Afrikana Independent Film Festival founder Enjoli Moon as well as premiering a new documentary, “The Builder,” by Shockoe Artspace and screening the “The Art Scene,” the new show co-produced by VPM and 19Red about Central Virginia’s art scene.
Another way to diversify the audience is through speakers. The Kocens have invited Antiques Roadshow appraiser Ken Farmer to give a talk, titled Tales from the Road.
An antique specialist may seem out of place at a contemporary art fair, but Farmer explains: “The most interesting homes I go in are the ones that have a mixture [of art and styles]. Anybody that’s in the art and antique business who hasn’t paid any attention to the contemporary side of things is pretty much getting left in the dust anyway, because especially younger people are more interested in contemporary things.”
At home, Farmer collects midcentury furniture and contemporary art. He admits Current will be his first contemporary art fair, but he’s always on the lookout for new art to collect.
“We like mixing contemporary things with antiques,” Farmer says. “I think it’s a more interesting look. We’re collectors of opportunity, so if we see something and like it then we’ll try to figure out how to work it into what we’re doing.”
Returning this year as a sponsor is McKinnon & Harris, a furniture company in Scott’s Addition. Its co-founder, Will Massie Jr., who notes his walls are filled with paintings made by the women in his family, explained by email his interest in the fair: “Art has put Richmond on the map in a big way. It’s one of the key reasons everyone wants to be here.”
For Kocen, Current is more than just a business venture, it comes with a mission.
“We’re just trying to inspire and reach people on a personal, visceral level … but we still want to wow them with gallerists they are familiar with, with this really hospitable space and making sure these gallerists are bringing their A game but also bringing in some new gallerists that maybe they’ve never seen before.”
He laughs before continuing, “It’s like when you have a fantastic meal and you just have to say to someone, here taste this. You’ve got to try this. You want to pass on that joy to somebody else and you’re hoping that they can experience what you’re experiencing.”
The Current Art Fair runs from Oct. 24 through 27 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. General admission tickets cost $10 and there are a variety of other prices. For information, see currentrichmond.com.