"If you don't invest in art, then those things go away."
This is what it comes down to for Out of Sight founder Greg Lundgren, plain and simple. Unrepresented artists need representation. They need eyeballs. Most of all they need to keep the lights on so they have the bandwidth to make more art. And if they can't find these things here in Seattle, they may well move somewhere else.
Is it frustrating, I ask him, that the city's rise in wealth over the years has not necessarily translated to more patronage for regional artists? We're on the second floor of 115 South Jackson Street surrounded by sculpture and canvases waiting to be placed for the upcoming show. A few blocks away, the CenturyLink Event Center sits in a similar state of repose. But while the Seattle Art Fair showcases hundreds upon hundreds of artists from all around the world, each of the 15o-plus visual and performing artists brought in by Out of Sight live within 200 miles of where we presently stand. Come August 3, this building will host the biggest display of contemporary regional art in the city.
"We're competing with so many other industries," says Lundgren. "And we have to be more aggressive in that fight for bandwidth."
As a curator, versions of an all-hands-on-deck showcase of regional artists had been floating around Lundgren's head for years. But the arrival of the Seattle Art Fair in 2015 provided an unprecedented chance to ride the swell of energy surrounding Paul Allen's Ginormous Art Market.
And so the first Out of Sight debuted three years ago at King Street Station alongside the inaugural Art Fair—officially unaffiliated but viewed as a package deal for many: Visit the Art Fair for a whopping survey of international contemporary art (with a handful of Seattle galleries and artists sprinkled in). Then drop by Out of Sight to see what we're up to over in this corner of the country.
It's not just about eyeballs. In any show (including the Art Fair), thousands of visitors don't always equal patronage. Lundgren wants to sign checks for artists after pieces sell, which he's done every year in the tens of thousands of dollars. Artist representation is key too, and if Out of Sight connects an artist with a gallery, that's a big step in the right direction. Lastly, Out of Sight wants locals and visiting enthusiasts to experience the wealth of homegrown talent we already have here in the Northwest. " As a region, we should be exporting, not importing, talent."
With a new, multi-story venue in Pioneer Square, the Out of Sight curators brought in more artists this year than ever before. But the goal remains the same: show off the Northwest and help keep artists in Seattle. "When I travel, there's not another city where I'm like 'this is where I want to be'," says Lundgren. Not Berlin. Not Chicago. Nor any other city more well-known for its art community. "We just have to adapt and create more accessible models. And we can't be passive about it."
Check out the Out of Sight 2017 artist list for more info.
Out of Sight
Aug 3–27, 115 South Jackson Street, $10–$100