What the fair says about Seattle, and whether its art community was sufficiently represented, with 18 Pacific Northwest galleries on the roster â and only 10 from Seattle â remains a continuing debate.
A satellite festival, called Out of Sight, organized last year by Seattle artists and galleries who felt squeezed out of Mr. Allenâs big tent, was back again this year, filling 21,000 square feet in a historic train station within walking distance of the main fair. What started partly out of frustration, artists and gallery owners said, has now become an established platform for local work.
âIf thereâs going to be all this energy, and all these collectors coming in from out of town, and critics and press talking about it, we can either, as an art community, sit on the sideline and watch the spectacle, or we can participate and ride that wave. Iâm not one to sit out a big opportunity,â said Greg Lundgren, Out of Sightâs founder.
Credit Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
Other private galleries in the city, like Roq La Rue, were timing the opening of shows this year to coincide with the fair.
âPeople are really trying to rise to the occasion,â said Kirsten Anderson, Roq La Rueâs owner and founder. âI havenât heard as much complaining this year,â she added.
Carl and Jeannette Pergam, both retired physicians who were visiting the fair from a Seattle suburb, said they were struck by the high prices, which they said spoke to them partly about the artâs quality, but also about the wave of wealth in Seattle from the explosion of growth at technology companies like Amazon and Microsoft.
âWhen you see a Frankenthaler, you say, âthatâs a Frankenthaler,â and you know you canât afford it â Paul Allen can afford it,â said Mr. Pergam, 74, referring to Helen Frankenthaler, the painter. They were on their way to a local gallery that had, they hoped, more work in their price range. Ameringer McEnery Yohe, a New York gallery, offered a 1987 acrylic by Frankenthaler, titled âGroundswell,â for $ 1.25 million at the Seattle Art Fair.
Nicole Vartanian, who took a day off work to visit Out of Sight before heading to the Seattle Art Fair, said she was struck by the political power of many of the pieces at Out of Sight, like Paul Ruckerâs life-size recreation of a Ku Klux Klan rally with mannequins in brightly colored robes and hoods, called âBirth of a Nation.â
âThe ones I would put up on my wall are sparse,â said Ms. Vartanian, 47, a cancer researcher who lives in Seattle. âBut thereâs a lot of important work here.â
Credit Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
Mr. Allen said in an interview that he pushed no particular vision of what the fair should be about, but that he likes the interplay of intellect and emotion.
âThereâs always this interesting tension between fairly intellectual pursuits like science, and more visceral pursuits like art, and how they respond and bond to each other,â he said. He also deeply appreciates, he added, the simple joy of the unexpected.
âI remember the first time I saw a Lichtenstein, at the Tate in London â just that you could be so surprised,â he said. The canvas that so stunned him was Roy Lichtensteinâs 1963 pop art painting, âWhaam!,â which captures a fighter pilot during midair combat.
Laura Fried, the Seattle Art Fairâs artistic director, said that she gravitated to what the artists were trying to say about the connection between technology and modern life.
âThe conceptual underpinnings are more what I find interesting,â she said.
Wynne Greenwoodâs outdoor public composition, called âIn Loving Memory,â for example, seems barely touched by tech at all, at least on the surface. In a square near the fair where people gather for lunch, Ms. Greenwood, 39, installed big white foam cushions with clip art images, found on Google by searching for emotions and ideas inspired by the cities in Washington State where she has lived. Whether visitors understand the connections and images, she said, is less important than how they react to the cushions themselves, and use them.
âThe way that we are arranging our world is changing, with digital space merging with physical space,â she said. âI really love thinking about softness in public.â
Ms. Kasper said she thought about the human stories behind the objects in assembling her cymbals project. Her fantasy was that a musician would walk through âStar Formation,â recognize some well-worn cymbal that he or she once owned, pull her aside and tell her a great back story about the night it got cracked.