We catch up with Amanda Coulson to talk 10 years of VOLTA NY

Amanda Coulson VOLTA NY 10

VOLTA NY is 10 this year and we caught up with its director Amanda Coulson to look back and find out more ..

1 When you started VOLTA did you expect to last 10 years?

Absolutely not. Myself and the three founders — Friedrich Loock, Kavi Gupta, and Ulrich Voges — really looked at it as an experiment just to see what could be done in Basel at that time. We really thought it would be a short-term project and hadn’t thought about it in terms of it becoming an actual second business with longevity. But then it just took off and her we are!

2 How have things changed in 10 years?

The proliferation of fairs and other events has probably had the most impact. First of all, everybody is less relaxed and not having quite as much of an enjoyable experience in general, whether that be because of the way travel has changed post-9/11 or just having to cut down on the time available at each venue because there are more in the calendar. So, it’s less joyful and more stressful; there definitely used to be more gusto about the whole process and a sense of excitement. The crowd has also become scattered; fifteen years ago there was a “flock” movement — everyone went everywhere at the same time — New York in March, Chicago in May, Basel in June (with Venice every other year), Paris in October, etc. You could count on certain people being in certain places; this has changed enormously as people rotate events — going every other year to London or Basel, say — so you do not always get the same energy year after year.

3 What are your highlights of the last 10 years?

International Festival, represented by Fruit & Flower Deli
International Festival, represented by Fruit & Flower Deli

The Keeper (left) Fruit and Flower Deli, with member of collective, International Festival.
The Keeper (left) Fruit and Flower Deli, with member of collective, International Festival.

The first edition in NY, which was so exciting with a venue looking over the Empire State building where my co-director then, Christian Viveros-Fauné, and I curated it like a “show,” entitled The Eye of the Beholder. Because the market was stronger and rent was cheaper, we could give the exhibitors very large, affordable booths — it was all very open very open plan — with few walls. There was a lot of sculpture and really exciting performances by International Festival (represented by Fruit & Flower Deli) or the world premiere of a contemporary-classical musical piece by a three-piece orchestra flown in from Germany as part of an Adrian Williams conceptual work (then represented by Voges + Partner; now Kadel Willborn), people were literally jumping around in their booths the energy was so amazing. Times definitely were very different then, and galleries were much more daring with their projects, though this still exists to a certain degree.

Performance conceived by artist Adrian Williams.
Performance conceived by artist Adrian Williams.

Definitely Wilmer Wilson IV’s performance 4 years ago From My Paper Bag Colored Heart, presented by CONNERSMITH. (Washington DC), in which he stood nude on the fair floor and methodically covered his body with brown lunch-bags that he first puffed up with his breath — culminating with Wilmer slapping and popping the lot and “shedding his skin” —

and the year back in the day when we ended up in the NY Post gossip column and had the FDA show up to confiscate a sculpture Felix by Fernando Mastrangelo (represented by Mendes Gallery—now Mendes Wood) because it allegedly had cocaine in it and all the executives from our parent company were freaking out, it was very funny and quite the tempest in a teacup in the end!

Felix by Fernando Mastrangelo, mixed media. (2006)
Felix by Fernando Mastrangelo, mixed media. (2006)

4 If you had 10 wishes for 2017 what would they be?

1- That the pure joy (and I don’t mean the desperation in relentless party-attending) would return to the art fair/art world arena.
2- That my children and husband wouldn’t see me as depressed and stressed out as I was in 2016
3-That my country (The Bahamas) would both start acting like a grownup and be taken more seriously by the rest of the world.
4-That my country — as messed up, corrupt and totally nuts as it is — would stop looking actually, at this point, like the sane place while the rest of the world gets scarier and completely crazy. Get it together, world!
5-That another David Bowie, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Carrie Fischer, Phife Dawg, Umberto Eco, Gary Shandling, Harper Lee is born.
6-That the NEA’s funding is reinstated.
7-That the statistical proof that putting art in education makes kids get better grades becomes a household conversation point and that it becomes compulsory and subsidized for schools to visit museums/galleries/theatres etc.
8-That the polar caps stop melting and the Caribbean stops getting struck by devastating hurricanes; we’ve been through two in the last 2 years alone …
9-That we stop killing endangered species and the planet in general
10-That we stop killing and hating each other because we look different/talk different/have different sexual preferences, etc.

5 What cool things do you have lined up for the 10th Volta NY

Well, if I told you now, then what would you have to look forward to? My husband is German and they have a saying “Vorfreude ist die schönste freude,” which means “anticipation is the sweetest joy” … Visitors can expect a good degree of artists whose works either react to directly — or, depending on their specific researches, have been reacting to for some time now — very timely sociopolitical and cultural concerns in contemporary society. Plus, as a teaser: we are bringing back the really successful curated exhibition within the fair. Last year this was put together by Derrick Adams and this year we’ve been working with Wendy Vogel who has put together something very powerful and timely entitled Your Body Is a Battleground, so you can look out for some very engaging dialogue, exciting positions and a real talking point for the week!

VOLTA NY // THE INVITATIONAL SOLO PROJECT FAIR FOR CONTEMPORARY ART.
MARCH 1st –5th, 2017 PIER 90, NEW YORK

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'