Making Art Social Again
Aspen gallery scene poised for a post-vaccine return to form this summer
The pandemic stripped away the social side out of Aspen’s historically lively art and gallery scene. Yes, galleries were able to open quickly after the spring 2020 lockdown and, yes, they provided sanctuary for people seeking solace or inspiration when most every other cultural hub was closed.
But there were no opening receptions and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, no walk-throughs, no in-person artist talks. Art viewing has mostly been a solitary or virtual venture. Even as several new players arrived on the local scene, they arrived quietly.
There were positives to be found in the experience of gallery hopping during the pandemic – you had more conversations with gallerists, for example, and you realized how little you actually get to look at the artwork at a crowded opening.
But maybe it also made you realize how much you miss the social life of the art world – the throngs of locals and locally based artists at the Red Brick and Aspen Chapel Gallery at openings; the artist talks at the Aspen Art Museum, where people ask questions you never would and notice things you would’ve missed otherwise; the creative hum of a summer day at Anderson Ranch when every studio and workshop and kiln is firing with creative energy; the informal art walk from the Gonzo to Boesky to Baldwin to Galerie Max to Casterline and points in between a summertime Friday night of openings.
Some of that social life appears ready to return to the scene this summer, which prompted this early survey of highlights in the season of renewal ahead.
ASPEN ART MUSEUM & ANDERSON RANCH
The most anticipated opening of the season is Precious Okoyomon’s rooftop installation at the Aspen Art Museum. The artist is in residence at Anderson Ranch this month, preparing work for the museum show, which is expected to include live plants, edible features, music and sculpture with multimedia, multi-sensory events slated to start running in June.
That June 10 opening looks like it’ll be the informal start of the post-vaccine art scene here (the museum is also due to open “Aspen Drift” by Cerith Wyn Evans that day), which comes just a few days after in-person workshops launch at the Ranch.
As capacity limits loosen and more visitors return to the museum, many are likely to have their first experiences with an astounding exhibition by painter Cy Gavin in the lower level galleries, at the museum’s new bar, The Slippery Slope, and in its reimagined museum store – designed and stocked by the artist Jonathan Berger – which opened with little fanfare and no crowds this winter.
In-person workshops are also returning to the museum, including a new kids program called Art in the Outdoors.
Highlights of the summer art scene
May 15 Fat City Gallery opens at 529 E. Cooper Ave.
May 28 Art Base opens at 174 Midland Ave., Basalt
June 3-July 22 Red Brick group show
June 8 Staff Art Exhibition opens, Patton-Malott Gallery, Anderson Ranch Arts Center
June 10 Precious Okoyomon, rooftop installation opens, Aspen Art Museum
June 10 Cerith Wyn Evans ‘Aspen Drift’ opens, Aspen Art Museum
June 10 Simphiwe Mbunyuza show opens, Marianne Boesky Gallery
June 18 Donald Baechler & George Still opening, Baldwin Gallery
July 2 Leah Potts opening, Art Base
July 2-Aug. 27 Snowmass Collective Artisan Market
July 12-16 Recognition Week, Anderson Ranch
Aug. 5 Anders Johnson and Kristy Odelius, Red Brick
The resurrection of campus life at Anderson Ranch on June 7 will be followed quickly by the opening of a new staff exhibition at its Patton-Malott Gallery – curated by Aspen Art Museum director Nicola Lees, yet another sign of a new era of collaboration between the organizations – on June 8 and the launch of its monthly film series on June 16.
There won’t be a traditional public auction and picnic on the Ranch campus this year, though its new “Recognition Week” will bring fundraising events to campus along with what promise to be memorable free public events with the Guerilla Girls. Twice-weekly guest faculty lectures and the Summer Series of artist presentations are also returning with the likes of Alexis Rockman (July 8) and Scott Rothkopf (Aug. 5) on the bill.
NEW GALLERIES, ART FAIRS
Nobody would have predicted that a pandemic would be a boom time for contemporary art, but indeed gallerists reported sales rose as collectors new and old spent so much time at home staring at their walls since March 2020.
As a result, the Aspen gallery scene saw new pop-ups like the Honor Fraser and Galeria Mascota and new permanent players like Eden Gallery set up shop here alongside locally based ones like the new Axion Gallery. It’ll be interesting to watch how those galleries – along with promising new additions like House of Hart, Pitkin Projects and Patrick Guyton Gallery – show work and engage the public in a less restricted post-vaccine Aspen.
More international galleries are opening outposts here before the summer season, with exhibitions echoing the contemporary lineup in Chelsea. Among them are two spaces beside the Aspen Art Museum: Almine Reich, which already has galleries in New York, London, Paris and Shanghai, and Malin Gallery, which has its main hub in Manhattan. Down the street on Mill, the London-based White Cube is opening its first Aspen gallery following its recent off-site project in West Palm Beach.
A handful of stalwarts on the local scene are also making moves. Aspen Art Gallery moved around the corner from its Mill Street location to a prime Hyman Ave. storefront, and Fat City Gallery – a new rendition of the popular Gonzo Gallery – will open on Cooper Ave. on May 15.
On the art fair front, Intersect Aspen – the rebranded ArtAspen – has yet to announce whether it will host an in-person fair this year. But the annual Downtown Aspen Art Festival is due back for its 18th year July 17 and 18, while the inaugural Snowmass Art Festival is set to run June 26 and 27. Also in in Snowmass Village, the Collective is opening a new seasonal Artisan Market, set to run from July 2 to Aug. 27.
Noteworthy among the longer-running galleries downtown are exhibitions of new work by Donald Baechler and George Still (both opening June 18) at the Baldwin Gallery and exhibitions by sculptor Simphiwe Mbunyuza (June 10) and painter Danielle Mckinney (June 17) at Marianne Boesky.
The move of the Art Base into its new headquarters on Midland Ave. in downtown Basalt promises the nonprofit community art center can stage professional exhibitions worthy of the local and regional talent it seeks to foster.
The new Art Base is the centerpiece of a blooming midvalley art scene that – unlike Aspen’s increasingly international roster of artists and brand-name galleries – has locally and regionally based artists as its stars.
The Art Base opens its first show in the new space, by Boulder’s Heather Cherry, on May 28. That’s followed by Leah Potts on June 2.
Meanwhile, new commercial galleries are arriving this summer in Basalt and joining the established Keating Gallery and Ann Korologos on the scene (the historic Toklat Gallery, with seven decades of history, is gone – a victim of the pandemic). Most prominent among the newcomers is Gallery 101 on Midland Ave., showcasing work by twin sister artists Ingrid Dee Magidson and Sybill Hill Carter.
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In the summer of 1957, Aspen welcomed its first summer ice-skating rink complete with two skating professionals on hand for instruction.