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On the fingers of one hand: Pool’s Thierry Alet reminds us that “there is no recession for independent artists.”


Thierry Alet

ssonehand1There is virtue in brevity, as my friends at ARTINFO are constantly reminding me, and I have particular respect for Jacquelyn Lewis and her principal of narrowing things down to manageable groups of five. I have shamelessly pinched the idea behind her blog Finding Five for this new slot on A Sky filled with Shooting Stars, where I’ll be encouraging people to sum up their ideas in five key points – as though they were counting them off on the fingers of one hand. (Yes, it’s a bit clunky, but hopefully we’ll get used to it … ) 

First up for the fingers of one hand treatment is Thierry Alet, who is director of Pool – the art fair that isn’t. If you go along to the Wyndham Garden Hotel at the end of this week (unlike any of the other fairs, Pool opens Friday) you won’t find smart-suited dealers in slick white booths, or any dealers in any booths actually, but rather artists “representing” themselves. Pool is a not-for-profit operation, dependent upon grants, sponsorship, donations and, significantly enough, fees paid by the artists who take part. These are “independent” artists – folks who don’t have a gallery to represent them. Obviously the character, and quality, of their work varies enormously, but isn’t that true of all the other fairs? Pool has really blossomed since I first saw it –  and wasn’t even sure that I’d found it – in a Miami hotel a couple of years back, and when I did my scorecard this time last year I called it “a real delight”. It does a really important job, and not surprisingly Mr Alet has a very particular take on the fair scene.

This is how he sums up the week ahead:

– I predict success for Pool. I’m really confident because we started out cautiously and only reserved two floors of the hotel. Then we had to reserve a third floor, and then a fourth floor. Now we have even more artists who want to come in so we’re trying to see if we can fit them on a fifth floor. It’s the biggest Pool we’ve ever had. 

– We focus on artists who don’t have gallery representation, and all the other fairs are only open to galleries. So you’re not going to see Pool artists anywhere else because basically they’re excluded from the art market. 

– It’s very important to us that we’re not seen as an alternative to the art dealers or the middlemen. That’s not our primary goal. Our goal is to create a meeting ground: artists get to meet other artists, and very often they get to meet curators and art dealers who might be looking for artists. So this is a completely different thing. 

– There is no recession for independent artists because they’re used to not making much money. They don’t have huge overheads, they don’t have a huge 401(k), and they’re used to going months without selling anything. So this is just like those months when nothing’s getting sold. 

– I think that what is happening now because of the economy would have happened anyway. There are too many fairs, and fairs are having to get out or team up with one another. I’m not sure that this is altogether a bad thing for the art world.

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