Wednesday, July 21, 1976
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Worldwide quest doesn't yield Art
By JEFFREY SELBST
WELL, IT'S TIME for the opening of
that annual wound, the Ann Arbor
Art Fair. And your valiant reporter is
once again going to foray through miles
and miles of schlock in order to find
what is, to him, the highest form of art.
One thing is certainly remarkable about
this city. It never gives up trying.
Surely an example can be brought to
mind as easily with the various experi-
mental cinema and theater festivals to
which this city (and University) plays
host. Prospective applicants are sent
t h e s e marvelous two-question entry
forms. "What is your name? Is it new,
different, and tres avant-garde?"
Basically, art fairs are all the same.
(Now, I know you'll all hate me for that,
but allow me to finish.) In fact, six
scant weeks ago I attended one of these
affairs in New York City, the Greenwich
Village Art Fair. There were thousands
of people, all attempting to peddle non-
sense in the name of art. But some-
where, buried as it must have been, at
least one person in that show was a
true Artist, showing Art. I have to be-
Enough of that. I know that I shall
have a simply terrible time trying des-
perately to decide which art fair I want
to go to. There now exist the State
Street Art Fair, the Street Art Fair, and
the Summer Arts Festival (formerly the
Free Arts Festival).
RUMOR HAS it that the State Street
Art Fair is the fair of choice. The com-
peting (if I may tse the vulgar word)
artists were all invited by a committee,
and it promises to be a regular white-
The Street Art Fair, on the other hand,
which by State Street standards must
be rather low and common, should be
an interesting show. It is there that I
first saw some marvelous line drawings
(pity I didn't find the name of the artist
and couldn't afford his work). Clearly
I must also attend this one, if only to
show off my less formal attire.
Then there is the Summer Arts Fes-
tival. Equally good sources tell me that
one has to be either a Guild member or
a University student to qualify for this
showing. Meaning that this may well be
the most experimental of the three.
Once again, how do you choose?
Well, each has its own kind of style.
But I never go to these things with more
than the barest discernible ambition. I
let things pass over me, drifting by, until
I spot Art.
IT REMINDS ME of the time I hap-
pened, by pure chance, to pick up ' an
arts festival in Paris. That was a couple
of years back. In any case, we had
decided to walk, rather than ride the
Metro to Montmartre that day, and
were rather exhausted by the time we'd
made our way to the base of Sacre-
Coeur. Believe me, faced with that
length of stairway, we had absolutely
no desire to climb to the top. "Oh, hang
Liautrec," I said, and that was to be
that. My companion (my brother, in
fact) was somewhat m o r e determined
than I, seeing as how he knew his artis-
tic spectrum needed greatly to be broad-
ened. Ie insisted that we ride the funi-
cular to the top, which we did.
We did a bit of streetwalking once we
hit the top of the hill, saw some breath-
taking views of Paris (such as it was,
covered in fog) fron various vistas, the
tyre of sites which in the States would
have had souvenir stands and been
labeled "scenic lookouts." Then we turn-
ed the corner, into the Place de Artistes,
NO, THIS was not my first arts fes-
tival, and I did know what goes on at
such affairs, but after all, this was
Paris. The city of Offenbach. Can-can
girls. Cole Porter. For God's sake!
To reduce pain and humiliation to a
whimper, I saw orange-yellow kittens,
horrible abstracts (mass-produced) and
views of The Empire State Building at
Night, all done with an abundance of
acrylic. Globs of the stuff had dried all
over the canvas, to give it that "tres
naturel" look. It failed.
I took one horrified look at my brother,
he cast an eager glance at me. "Is this
Art? Have we found Art?" No, I pa-
tiently tell him, this isn't Art. A look of
hurt and shame crosses his open face.
"But this is the city of Art!" he says
reproachfully. What can I tell hiiu? Life
is rough. We go out and find the most
marvelous little sidewalk cafe and have
lunch. He orders egg salad.
Well, so much for Montmartre.
THIS DIDN'T stop me from searching
for Art, though. Not that I ever did so
terribly actively, for that would have
been demeaning. No, that's not it either.
Let's just say that it's like the watched
pot that never boils. Art must beckon
Still, that surprassed the time I was
in Verona, and, surprise, they were hav-
ing an art fair. It was being held in the
marketplace. I don't remember who I
was with, I just remember the traumat-
ic scene that ensued. There had been
tables and tables of this made-in-Japan
stuff, and finally, a stall where all the
work was of the highest imaginable qual-
ity. Naturally I gravitated oiver there.
As I recall, I hadI two or three compan-
ions, and we spread ourselves the length
of the marketplIce. (As a matter of fact,
I lost track of two of them, who wander-
ered off to find Juliet's house, and found
it, balcony intact, towering over a court-
yard in which a souvenir stand s o 1 d
quarto copies of Romeo and Juliet and
miniature Leaning Towers of Pisa.)
I fingered some of the merchandise
with a mixture of apprehension and ac-
quisitiveness. I then proceeded to check
the thing over for a price tag. (What?
No price tag? 'You have to bargain with
them, dear," said my lissome comspan-
ion. "Just like the Arabs.")
Okay. So I tried English, and the wo-
msan running the stand didn't understand
a word I said. My companion squeezed
my arm. "Try French," site whispered.
With the barest hint of a giggle, I trot-
ted out my faculous command of French.
The woman spoke to me in flawless
French, "Je lie comprends pas Fran-
cais!" I turned to of' smarty on my
right and said, "Nok what?" "Try Ger-
mlan," she urged.
I asked the woman in my spotty e«r-
man, about the price. The woman drewk
herself up to an absolutely coCsmnding
stature, and in the clearest Germoan, she
said, "I do not deal with the G-rmans!"
And that was that.
So, with my resounding sucessess in
art fairs in foreign climes, I mst resort
to domestic festivals and the like if I
am to get anyhwere at all.
Lets' see .I'll hit the State Street Fair
on the 21st, the Summer Arts Festival,
the 22nd, the Street Art Faii the 23rd . . .
11 Jill 111
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