Frieze Week Kicks Off with Art World Poker Night

Inside a tent at the SELECT Fair, artist Fawn Rogers held a high-stakes game where paintings of high-powered collectors were the cards.

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May 14 2015, 10:00pm

Images by the author

On opening night of the SELECT Fair, a group of artists, collectors, and gallerists gathered in Fawn Rogers' tent for a game of high-stakes art world poker. Entitled COURT, the project was based on a standard deck of playing cards, created from 54 paintings of high-powered art collectors chosen from ARTNews’ “Top 200” list

Two disruptors were chosen as the Joker cards: the first, Los Angeles collector and curator Stefan Simchowitz, Rogers describes as "the Uber of the art world—people love to hate him." (When Simchowitz heard he had been chosen as one of the Jokers, he said, "make me both!") The second is Adam Lindemann, author of Collecting Contemporary. Lindemann was personally recommended by the critic Jerry Saltz. 

As such, the tent was transformed into an exclusive oasis amidst the chaotic fair, a VIP room for the "court" of the art world. "It's refreshing to see an immersive environment in the context of an art fair. So much of this work is like, hole in the wall, cash and carry. This tent is like stepping into another world. It's refreshing," remarked artist Michael Zelehoski, whose first solo show New Order is now on view at Mike Weiss Gallery. 

Local artists Rachael Senchoway, Edwin Bethea, Boris Glamocanin, Lee Tal, and Marina Markovic led the game, and as the evening progressed, the crowd became more competitive—kids and moms joined professional poker players and gallerists in the fray.

Art world insiders joked that the deck doubled as convenient flash cards, helping them remember important names and faces. 

"You can remember where the money is coming from—when you go to the big fair, you can chase them with this deck of cards!" quipped Geraldine Beigbeder, a Paris-based writer who is also the curator of Pete Doherty's paintings

By using this unique deck of cards, a game of poker took on a larger significance: representing the thrill of power and possession, and inviting participants into a game of luck and strategy. Like the game of art collection, playing cards can be used to create community, forge alliances, swindle enemies, and astonish strangers. 

“The most important thing about this project is that these collectors are the court of the art world—what they choose to buy and sell and make important is what goes down to represent this time in history," said Rogers. "I want to go down in history, and the only way to do that is to sell to the court." 

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