Eric Fischl’s strange, unsettling paintings of suburban disquiet made him a household name in the 1980s. He is in countless museum collections and has shown all over the world, as chronicled in his memoir and art world tell-all, Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas (2013). But one thing Fischl never did was go to art fairs, until a few years ago, when he realized they were as compelling a subject as that of his early work. A new exhibition, titled “Art Fair Paintings,” is on view at JABLONKA MARUANI MERCIER GALLERY in Brussels, Belgium, to coincide with the Art Brussels art fair, where the gallery will also be showing a selection of Fischl’s “Art Fair” works. In these works, Fischl homes in on the absurd nature of the attendees at these glorified art gatherings.
Comic and disturbing at the same time, Fischl’s paintings are based on photo-collages the artist creates on his computer. In one particularly busy image, Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, in his signature suit and Nikes, shuffles past a group of four aesthetes (one of them looking a bit like Ed Ruscha), as a man and a woman snap cellphone photographs of giant Alex Katz portraits on the wall. It’s a scene that could be from any fair—Fischl seems be saying, “If you’ve seen one art fair, you’ve seen them all”—and it has often been noted that Fischl likes people to attend the art fair his work is showing concurrently with, and then see his exhibition to experience the whole thing again.
The New York-based artist’s work exposes the globalized nature of these fairs, of which there are now over 50 major ones in places like Dallas, Dubai, and Hong Kong. And unless you’re in the shopping mood, it’s a pretty overwhelming way to see art. In a lot of ways, seeing a show of Fischl art world paintings is even better than experiencing the real thing.