Art market

Nato Thompson named artistic director of Seattle Art Fair

The Philadelphia-based curator sees opportunity to create dialogue between public artworks and the market

Nato Thompson will organise artist commissions, talks and other programming for the Seattle Art Fair Alyssa Maloof, courtesy of Seattle Art Fair

The Seattle Art Fair has tapped the curator and critic Nato Thompson as its artistic director for its fourth edition (2–5 August). "It’s certainly the strongest fair in the Pacific Northwest, and an interesting counterweight to the East Coast fairs in terms of diversity and public engagement," Thompson tells The Art Newspaper.

Thompson is currently the artistic director for the non-profit arts incubator Philadelphia Contemporary, and for a decade he served in that role at Creative Time in New York. While there, he orchestrated buzzy public installations, including Kara Walker's monumental A Subtlety (2014) at the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn.

The new gig, previously held by Laura Fried, represents Thompson's first formal appointment with an art fair. "I’m interested in art that matters to the people that see it, art that makes you think when you see it. I think interesting public art can exist in parallel with the market at the fair," says Thompson. "Our goal is to open communication between the public, the landscape, and the artwork."

Thompson does not rule out hot-button themes for his programming, noting that at last year’s fair, the Portland-based artist Ellen Lesperance presented a collection of garments and a performance inspired by the feminist activist group Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.). "That is absolutely the kind of art that you wouldn’t see elsewhere," he says. "The Seattle Art Fair really does put a spotlight on contemporary art on the West Coast, art that speaks to the politically charged time we are living in."