Aspen arts fair organizer defends annual Ice Garden event
The Aspen Times
Scott Fetzer, who has produced the Aspen Antique, Jewelry and Fine Arts Fair for more than a decade, defended the event Tuesday, a day after a local jeweler and an art-gallery owner lambasted out-of-town vendors for drawing business away from area retailers.
Fetzer, a Roaring Fork Valley resident since 1989, operated Fetzer’s Fine Antiques for 16 years before starting the fair at the Aspen Ice Garden.
During an Aspen City Council meeting Monday, jeweler Donald Stone, owner of Pierre-Famille in Aspen, called on the city for help, claiming he saw zero sales during Fourth of July week, when the annual event is held.
Exhibitors listed for the fair hail from Aspen, Vail, Avon, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and London, among other cities. Fetzer claimed the antique show, which contributes $30,000 in rent to the city annually, is the second-highest grossing event for the Ice Garden, behind ArtAspen in August.
Fetzer, a Carbondale Realtor, said he’s always been partial to locals, offering free and discounted booths for the event. Additionally, a fraction of proceeds goes to the Shining Stars Foundation, with the fair most recently funding a year of chemotherapy for one patient.
Fetzer said he can’t understand why local galleries will spend $5,000 on advertisements in local publications but won’t pay half that much to meet 3,000 potential clients who attend the antique show.
“It was never my intention to do (the fair) to take business away,” Fetzer said, adding that the event is a one-stop shop for a variety of pieces, including work from Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet as well as war artifacts. “They bring stuff that is museum quality.”
On Monday, there also were concerns about Beverly Hills, California-based Revolver Auctions, which holds pop-up auctions at local hotels during the winter and summer high seasons. Galerie Maximillian owner Albert Sanford said Revolver comes and goes in a matter of days in July and December, taking millions of dollars in sales from local stores.
Revolver representatives could not be reached for comment.
At the request of the council, City Attorney Jim True is exploring what, if any, action the city can take. He said signage code, tax collection and use of city property are all areas that can be addressed directly. However, a properly zoned auction held at a hotel doesn’t require any special consideration from the city.
While Sanford said other gallery owners share his concerns about pop-up auctions, George Sells, who has run Omnibus Gallery in Aspen for 35 years, said he has no problem with competition, especially from “traveling salesmen.”
“The fool is the consumer who buys that stuff,” he said.
Galleries complaining about outside competition are no different from restaurants complaining about food trucks, he added. If Aspen’s food offerings weren’t so low-quality and overpriced, he said, there would be no problem there, either.
“We need food trucks,” he said.
Fetzer said he would “jump on the wagon” against auction events because he questions the integrity of the work. He said auction holders like Revolver, who feature popular-art pieces from Andy Warhol and other artists, cheapen the industry.
There are legitimate auction houses, he said, “but to whore yourself and just throw it into a hotel room” is not the same thing. He argued there should be more time for the pieces to be viewed and validated by experts.
“You can’t just throw it up there in a day and say, ‘Gee, I want $10,000.’ That’s a flea market,” he said.
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.