Seattle’s biggest annual celebration of art opens tomorrow. I don’t mean the Seattle Art Fair, or any gala auction. I mean Out of Sight, an exhibition of 110 Pacific Northwest artists and dozens of performers. Sure, the SAF is larger, but I am reluctant to call any art fair a “celebration.” Fairs are a golden opportunity to see and buy amazing international art, network, and hobnob, but they will always be commercial first, creative second.
To find the anarchic, jubilant energy that one associates with the creative process, you need to look at the satellite events and performances that form around art fairs. Locally, Out of Sight is by far the most ambitious. The work there is for sale, but the setting is less like a mall and more like a funhouse, museum, and concert venue smashed together. They are even holding a Swedish-pancake brunch on the final day of opening weekend, this Sunday, and Friday happy hours at its pop-up bar.
The loss of the original venue for Out of Sight led many to wonder if it would happen at all this year. Those include its mastermind, artist and entrepreneur Greg Lundgren. In 2015, Lundgren and his team worked under the banner of his company, Vital 5 Productions, to build out an exhibition space on the long-unused second floor of King Street Station. He did such a good job rehabilitating it that the city relocated its Office of Arts and Culture there. In August, the city will present a group show of arts and performance, Borderlands. Of course, that left Out of Sight out of site, as it were.
From lemons comes limoncello: Lundgren tenaciously made calls and knocked on doors to find a new home for the event. What he got is the The Schoenfelds’ Building, which has even more curatorial potential than King Street Station, whose even partitioning tended to blend the works and limit the kinds of media that could be shown. Better still, the new venue is right in front of the streetcar stop by Occidental Park, neighboring many Pioneer Square galleries, and right on the path to and from CenturyLink Event Center, home of the SAF.
The Schoenfelds’ Building has housed art and design galleries over the decades, including Stonington Galleries, which moved up the street a few years ago. The building’s current owner is Denver-based Urban Villages, who intends to convert it and much of the surrounding block into a retail, entertainment, and dining hub called RailSpur. Lundgren’s vision for Out of Sight beautifully aligned with the company’s plans, which include opening access to the back alley, which Lundgren will make into a beer garden.
Out of Sight actually occupies two addresses with three floors: 119 and 115 S. Jackson St. The two basements will be used for light and film installations, including neon sculptures by Dylan Neuwirth, short films and sculpture by Bruce Bickford, and a visually intense experience (involving high-powered strobes) by Gary Hill. Lundgren and crew connected the upper floors by knocking out a wall, and their large skylights and windows present beautiful staging opportunities. Works on display include wearable sculptures by Anna Rose Telcs and kinetic, hand-cranked sculptures by Casey Curran.
The ground floor will host large murals and sculptures, including a monumental beast by Electric Coffin. The performances will also take place at ground level on stages built at the two loading docks and in the surrounding neighborhood. One significant drawback of this and many other older buildings is the lack of a working elevator for visitors with mobility limitations—but there will be lots to see, regardless. (Those who cannot use stairs get in free.)
For those visiting Seattle for the Fair, Out of Sight is the satellite event to see. If I had any complaints about past satellite shows, it was the paucity of evident curation. This third year, the arts community is hitting its stride. Out of Sight is setting the standard, going beyond being a survey of regional work and uniting diverse artists with a balance of scrap and polish, street and penthouse, pancakes and cocktails. Out of Sight, The Schoenfelds’ Building, 119 and 115 S. Jackson St., outofsight.space. $50 opening night, $10 after. All ages. Thurs., Aug. 3, 6 p.m.–midnight. Fri.–Sun. Ends Aug. 27.