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Is the modern art world complete bullshit?

‘Art Fair’ is a film made by Talk Hole that looks at the deathly competitiveness of New York’s art scene and how no-one’s really saying anything, are they?

Maybe you’ve been to an art opening, or an art fair. You’re clutching a flute of lukewarm champagne (could be cava), you’re staring at this thing. People are not just saying they love it, they’re saying why they love it, how they love it. Everyone works in a gallery (who knew there were that many?), everyone has a tote bag but each one is different. “Hey guys,” goes your internal monologue. “Isn’t this... like, bad?” You accept another flute of cava (it’s definitely cava) and nod in agreement with the DJ you’re pretty sure your friend went on a bad Tinder date with. You know he’s a DJ because he’s wearing an I AM A DJ shirt and was DJing earlier. “This is such a powerful piece, isn’t it?” he’s saying, you think to you(?). He’s staring straight ahead, at the Dreadful Art.

Art Fair is a film made by Talk Hole, who describe themselves as a “subversive, underground, art-jacent comedy brand in NYC”. The short film was shot at Nada (New Art Dealers Alliance) and stars SNL writer Julio Torres, Max Wittert from High Maintenance and Jacqueline Novak of Comedy Central. It was shot by Daniel Rampulla.

It’s an acerbic, close-to-home look at the deathly competitiveness of art fairs, the desperation of wanting to seem important or intellectual, and the pseuds that inhabit the art world. It’s also just really funny. Watch Art Fair below and also read our talk with the filmmakers Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst about... art.

Is the art world actually totally, irrevocably awful? 

Eric Schwartau: I don’t know, ask my ex.

Steven Phillips-Horst: Please, please, please do not ask my ex. It will only make him stronger.

Can you remember the worst art fair that you’ve been to and why it was awful?

Steven Phillips-Horst: The Taipei Hobbies & Crafts Expo 2013. The AC broke down, and suddenly it was like we were all in this hammam, and not the good kind.

Eric Schwartau: Art Tampa was pretty bad. Two deaths at the air show.

What percentage of people that look at art and discuss it are pretending to know what they’re talking about?

Steven Phillips-Horst: The reality is if you’re looking at art, you’ve already failed. Art should be beheld, not gawked at. Like me, when I’m at a restaurant or a panel discussion. Don’t look at me. Behold me.

Eric Schwartau: Everyone understands art to some degree, but to figure out the exact percentage by which you personally understand art, divide the number of forwarded party invites you’ve received by the number of times you’ve said the word gestural and multiply by 100. 

Conversely, do you think there are a lot of people in the art world that don’t even like art?

Steven Phillips-Horst: It depends. If ‘art’ is living in a dirty apartment and making elaborate sculptures out of trash while drunk then, yes, the art ‘world’ is a way for rich people to feel cultural without actually waking up on a soiled cot. However, if you turn the cot over, it’s basically like a brand-new cot.  

Eric Schwartau: Right. And not everyone likes shabby chic.

What is it about art that people are so desperate to be associated with as an authority?

Eric Schwartau: Art is a privately funded welfare program for kids who got too stoned in art school to ever found Airbnb. It’s a social safety net.

Steven Phillips-Horst: Daddy issues. Yes.

What needs to change about art fairs and the art world?

Eric Schwartau: More men.

Steven Phillips-Horst: Yes! Thank you. You go to a fair and you’re like... who are all these women? 

What's your favourite thing about art fairs?

Eric Schwartau: Packing, shipping… mostly logistics.

Steven Phillips-Horst: The acoustics.

Who’s your favourite person in the art world, why do you like them?

Eric Schwartau: Chantal Chadwick and Casey Jane Ellison… both because of their milky skin, fame and lipstick.

Steven Phillips-Horst: Ivanka Trump, because she’s one of us! And will surely be sympathetic to our concerns as we’ve been to the same openings in the Hamptons.

What’s your favourite piece of art ever and why?

Steven Phillips-Horst:  Anything for which I was the ‘muse’. I’ve actually been the inspiration for paintings, t-shirts and, recently, a vase.

Eric Schwartau: Something about neoliberalism.