Tech Meets Design At This Year's Seattle Art Fair

C. Davida Ingram, "Jane with Open Pink Parachute," 2016. Image courtesy of the Artist

3D portraiture and live robot performances are just a few of the highlights of the fourth annual Seattle Art Fair.

“Dreamy, bizarre, yet tangible:” That’s how artistic director Nato Thompson describes the upcoming fourth edition of the Seattle Art Fair, where over 100 galleries from 36 cities in ten countries will convene for what’s become a refreshingly untraditional contemporary art gala get-together. Set in the heart of the developing tech world, Seattle’s extravaganza (founded, appropriately, by Paul Allen) embraces technology not as a novelty to employ in creating work, but as a key component of the most cutting-edge modern art. While the fair highlights prominent international visitors, it focuses too on the city of Seattle itself, the impact of local cultures like first-nations people, and the value of a tech developer’s open mindset.


Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning, "Probably Chelsea" (2017). Courtesy the artists and Fridman Gallery, New York.

That outlook permeates the most exciting work at the fair, whether at blue chip or on-the-rise spaces. Chris Burden presents a scale model of the solar system, with the sun in Gagosian Gallery’s booth and planets installed throughout the grounds and nearby businesses; Trevor Paglen offers a model of his in-progress "Orbital Reflector," the first satellite to exist only for artistic purposes; Heather Dewey Hagborg’s "Chelsea Manning Project" displays thirty 3D portraits of Manning, generated by an analysis of her DNA; and Survival Research Laboratories will offer live robot performances. Perhaps more than any other art fair, the discussions are as stimulating as the art itself, from a conversation between artist/robot-maker Mark Pauline and sci-fi pioneer Bruce Sterling to a discussion among Anishinaabe women about cultural specificity and futurity. Thousands of miles from Miami or Basel, there’s real art world evolution happening here. CenturyLink Field Event Center, 1000 Occidental Ave. S.