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Bigger, better, more—Echo Art Fair returns

See the artist and the painting at Echo: A.J. Fries, Untitled, 2013 (oil on canvas)


Now in its its third year, Echo Art Fair is based on two simple premises: 1) Buffalo has a large, diverse, and talented visual art community and 2) Buffalo also has a surprisingly robust fine art market. According to Echo founder Frits Abell, “I’ve met people [at Echo] who told me ‘I’ve never bought a piece of art before, but I just spent $2,500.’”

“The depth of talent here is vast,” says Abell, a Manhattan-based expat who spends most of his time talking about Buffalo, thinking about Buffalo, and coming up with ideas that could somehow improve Buffalo. Though his business life might be 500 miles away, Abell’s heart is firmly embedded in his hometown. Largely through a network of websites and Facebook groups, Abell keeps in constant touch with his fellow Buffalo boosters and spends about a week out of every month in town. Echo is—so far—the most visible of Abell’s projects. As in previous years, Abell has Buffalo-based staff. Echo’s CEO Sarah JM Kolberg, currently teaching and studying at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Media Study, has been assisting on all aspects of the ambitious event.


More room for art

This year, the fair is to be held in the downtown headquarters of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The space is a unique one; previously used for offices, it offers 25,000 square feet, which is larger than either of the fair’s previous venues. The area will be completely open, with floor-to-ceiling windows; this provides a clean airy environment—perfect for art. As we went to press, the library was in the process of clearing and abating the space, which in future will become a cultural hub meant to house and support emerging arts organizations. “I think the library, with its sleek, midcentury design, is the perfect venue for a contemporary art fair,” Abell notes. He’s also excited about the Friday night dance party, run by Only Comrades, a “sexy, hipster group” of art enthusiasts. 


Growing and tweaking

Hallwalls visual art curator John Massier has taken charge of Echo’s installation program. This emerged last year as an ad hoc addition to the fair; now it is very much part of the fair’s offerings. The installations offer a necessary counterpoint to the commerce-oriented booths; there will be twelve of them inside and outside the library. (Many of the installations will reference their location and address bookish themes.) There will also be several panels and plenaries on the basics of collecting art. And rather than just one limited edition print made especially for the fair, this year there will be three new prints, by Charles Clough, Dennis Maher, and Katherine Sehr. Julian Montague’s print from last year is also available. There are 113 artists participating, through galleries, installations, and their own booths. Check the website for a complete list.

Given the combination of Echo, the CEPA auction, Hallwalls’ inventive drawing rallies, Allentown’s First Fridays, and the persistent excellence of the exhibitions at Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo fine art collectors now have year-round opportunities in a wide variety of styles and price points. The fact that an art fair draws more attention to other local art programming is also Echo’s achievement.


And finally

Here’s some advice from Allison Rodman, communications director of the venerable Armory Show. It appeared on Artspace.com as part of an Art 101 series. When asked “what not to do at an art fair,” Rodman replied, in part: “Don’t arrive in the nude [a repeat offense at the Armory]. Don’t place an enormous quantity of ladybugs in the air-conditioning vents during the fair [this also happened]. And don’t wear roller blades.”


Echo Art Fair
When: Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a VIP party Friday, September 6, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Second floor, Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square


Elizabeth Licata is editor of Buffalo Spree.

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