While you were trying to get tickets for the hottest art exhibit in DC right now, another art happening was getting underway, right under your nose: Artomatic 2017 is here!
Compared to “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” at the Hirshhorn, Artomatic is less polished. In fact, it’s completely uncurated and unjuried, which makes for a thoroughly different, and a more local, experience. It’s also much easier to get into — no ticket necessary.
What is Artomatic?
Artomatic has been around since 1999, returning every few years in a different place in the DC area. The concept is simple: it’s first-come-first-served to get a space for your artwork, installations, experiments, etc.
Within each artist’s designated space, they’re free to do what they wish — paint the walls, turn out the lights, or simply tack their artwork up. Because it’s usually held in an office building, the spaces are as unconventional as the art and include large lounges, meeting rooms, kitchens and, as a special challenge, closets.
Compared to previous Artomatics we’ve written about, the size of Artomatic 2017 hovers somewhere around the middle. Compared to any other exhibit you’re going to see this year, it’s massive: 599 visual artists over seven floors. There are also performances, workshops, screenings, readings … and one wedding.
The photos in this post will give you some idea of what’s in store for you, but it’s really something you need to experience for yourself. The closest comparison is an art fair — but six weeks long, unjuried, and featuring only local artists.
What does “unjuried” mean?
Your typical art exhibit or fair has the artists selected by either a juror or a curator. For example, exhibits at The Art League gallery are juried, meaning artists bring in their work and the juror can accept or reject specific artworks.
So what does “unjuried” mean? It means anyone who can pay the fee can exhibit at Artomatic. It means a lower barrier to entry, no overarching theme or goal, and a huge variety of media. Painting and photography are the most popular, but anything goes here: sculpture, fiber art, videos, multimedia installations, collages, wearable art, and the impossible to categorize.
Because anything goes, you’ll get to see plenty of experiments and risk-taking.
How to Artomatic
- Go on a weekend to see more of the artists, performers, and screenings. Check the calendar for events before you go. If you prefer to have the space to yourself, go during the workday: all the rooms will still be open to you.
- Take the metro if possible. The building is right next to the Crystal City station, and parking can be a pain.
- Take the elevator to the ninth floor, then work your way down to the third. (Pro-tip: One of the cash-only bars is on the ninth floor.) Take the stairs if you’re just going down one floor.
- Keep notes of the artists whose work you like or might want to buy — they might be out of business cards, and at the end of seven floors, you’ll be thankful to have specific notes to remind you who did what. Purchased artwork is required to remain up through May 6, so anyone can see the full show regardless of when they visit.
Other tips for Artomatic 2017
- Don’t go on a Monday or Tuesday. They’re closed.
- Prepare to be overwhelmed and spend two to four hours if you try to tackle the whole thing in one go. If you can, make a couple visits. (Don’t worry, you’ll still get to be overwhelmed.)
- Be sure to check out all of the artists from The Art League! Andrea Cybyk, Christine Cardellino, Dale McGrath, Deborah Taylor, Dennis Crayon, Greg Knott, M. Jane Johnson, Jane McElvany Coonce, Linda Lowery, Lisa Schumaier, Pattee Hipschen, Sandi Parker, and Suzanne Yurdin are all participating. (If we’ve missed your name, get in touch so we can add it to the list!)
Artomatic 2017 is on view March 24 to May 6, 2017 at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, Virginia. (Metro: Crystal City station.) Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 12:00 noon–10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday, 12:00 noon–12:00 midnight; Sunday, 12:00 noon–8:00 pm; closed Monday and Tuesday.