Art fairs are making a comeback, precarious but provocative

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Even before Covid, the art world was changing rapidly. Sales that used to take place in New York or Basel, via a hushed conversation, are now done via Instagram all over the world. Large galleries are merging to follow mega-galleries, while small galleries, one way or another, continue to multiply.

From a strictly business standpoint, this fall’s Art Week – which has been postponed from spring and continues through Sunday – represents an attempt to continue as before, but with a few tweaks. The Armory Show, America’s first major art fair since the pandemic, has become even more American as travel restrictions and complications have pushed 55 exhibitors, mostly Europeans, into the fair’s new component just by line. Visitors to Manhattan’s sprawling Javits Center, the show’s new home, will need to prove they are vaccinated or have a recent negative coronavirus test, as they will in most venues throughout the week. (Check health protocols first.)

When the Armory Show moved in the fall, satellite shows like Spring / Break, Art on Paper, Clio, and the sleek little Independent followed it until September. The all-new Future Fair, founded in 2020, is finally taking place in person. All in all, these are the New York art fairs as you knew and loved, or hated them, and it’s just not yet clear whether attendance and sales will keep their model viable.

For most people, of course, the art business is in the background right now. When asked what counted as success in the gallery’s first live appearance since Covid, Lisa Spellman, the founder of the 303 Gallery, replied, “Just seeing people!” Ebony L. Haynes, who will lead the David Zwirner Gallery’s new TriBeCa space in October, said: “You can never replace seeing art in person. “

This excitement itself is cause for optimism. “One of the main reasons for a thriving art market is exciting art,” said Jeffrey Deitch, a gallery owner who is opening two exhibitions in New York this weekend. “And we have some exciting art right now.”

And for the first time in a long time, we also have a community that sees this art together. As Tom Eccles, who heads the Hessel Museum of Art, said, “art needs, or the art market needs a society around it”.

What follows is a guide to the highlights of a provocative, resilient, precarious and exciting new art season – and its society – in New York City. Martha Schwendener reviews the Independent Art Fair, while Siddhartha Mitter takes care of the new Future Fair, and I provide an overview of the Armory Show, below.

The 157 exhibitors at the Javits Center are divided into sections: the Focus presentations, organized by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, from the Saint-Louis Museum of Contemporary Art, are more topical; Presents includes younger galleries; Solo is intended for single artist presentations; and Galleries includes more prominent names.

Platform, a stand-alone section in the middle of the room (look for the formidable cardboard relief sculptures by Michael Rakowitz and a huge painting by Benny Andrews), was curated by Claudia Schmuckli of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. Here are the must-see galleries, along with their booth numbers.

James Fuentes, F3

When Haitian-American artist Didier William began exhibiting in New York City, he painted dark figures on wood panels and marked them with hundreds of small eye-shaped pits, suggesting that in order to be alive, especially in as a black man you had to be hurt, but to be hurt was also to see. His latest figures are still covered in eyes, but they are also modeled more confidently in space, as well as dressed in streaks of brightly colored paint drips. “Just Us Three”, which shows two nude figures carrying a child, may offer a key to this new exuberance – the artist recently became a father.

Carrie Secrist Gallery, F7

Working as a collective called Hilma’s Ghost, in consultation with “professional witch” Sarah Potter, artists Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray recently put together a beautiful new tarot deck of geometric abstractions. The 72 original drawings – along with some related paintings – are on display here. The debt to Hilma af Klint is obvious, but Hilma’s Ghost was also inspired by an artist of the occult – Pamela Colman Smith’s designs for the classic Rider-Waite tarot card deck, and the results are a mix. fascinating – trippy but functional, busy but harmonious. (Bridges are also available.)

Later Gallery, F13

Irish-born and New York-based artist George Bolster identifies a curious aspect of science fiction visuals: that the most compelling otherworldly landscapes are those here on Earth. Shooting ghostly scenes of the American West in high-resolution video, he selects still images and renders them as tapestries in warm, slightly unreal colors. They are like pharmaceutical ads from another America where research on psychedelics has never stopped.

Daughters of Sargent, F21

At the Crow Fair, an annual gathering hosted by the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation in Montana, people decorate their cars with textiles and other meaningful items and drive in a parade. By photographing these vehicles, cutting them out and mounting them against a patterned fabric, Crow artist Wendy Red Star translates these gestures into a radically different medium and context. Along with the photos is a sculpture of a gray pickup truck topped with a large war hood to match the real truck driven by his father, a Vietnam veteran.

Eric Firestone Gallery, 228

Born in Anniston, Alabama, and raised in Brooklyn, Jamillah Jennings rose to prominence as a sculptor, showing with her husband, painter Ellsworth Ausby. But in the late 1980s, she began making acrylic paintings on paper, based on photos of her father and other black World War II veterans, as well as other friends and family, and c is the first time the results have been shown. . With bright, solid backgrounds and pale eyes, the portraits stun you with their frankness; their subtle sophistication registers more slowly. Don’t miss the 15 hanging inside the booth closet – or two fabulous geometric paintings by Ausby.

One of the pleasures of an art fair is accidental synchronicity – unexpected echoes between works in two unrelated stalls. A large grid of photos documenting a performance titled “Daily Chores on 5th Avenue” by Istvan Ist Huzjan, presented by Proyectos Monclova of Mexico City, shows the artist in black and white proceeding from one side road to another as ‘he collects all the rubbish on the Museum Mile in New York. On the other side of the Javits Center, São Paulo’s Galeria Lume presents a collection of austere works including several photographs of white lines on black paving stones by Ana Vitória Mussi.

Dastan Basement, P33

You can smell the mist and smell the sand underfoot in these acrylic scenes of Iran’s bodies of water, some of them framed in papier-mâché, by young painter Meghdad Lorpour. An untitled view from the back of a speedboat mostly captures the eerie allure of an underwater view, an eternity that doesn’t care about us and is therefore as frightening as it is serene.

Lyles & King, P28

English painter Jessie Makinson had just hung her first solo show in New York, a sultry and disorienting group of crisp elves and others not quite human, when Covid closed her gallery. Thus, this presentation of a single artist, centered on a huge image of earth spirits associating around an oily black pool (“Me Time”), is an expected start.

Microscope gallery, P6

Jeanne Liotta works on spheres – the one we live in and those in other orbits. Most characteristic of the colorful gel-on-lightbox collages that appear here, along with a pair of LED sculptures by Rachel Rosheger, is the way they deftly sidestep all the usual associations. They are not science fiction, nor astrological, nor wacky, nor even scientific. One image of the earth in particular, covered with concentric circles and a yellow section, appears rooted in mere observational wonder, although there may be a hint of ancient Greek geometry.

Contemporary Gallery Goya, S3

In an art fair full of bright colors scrambling for attention, six stunning quilts stand out like the real deal. Made by Elizabeth Talford Scott (1916-2011) in the ’80s and’ 90s, the pieces are irregularly shaped and incorporate loose thread, beads, sequins, and even tight little bags of polished pebbles with their many small pieces of fabric. patterned. They are almost like feats of higher mathematics: they seem far too complicated to put together as singular compositions, but somehow they are.

Charles Moffett, S9

Taking over Kenny Rivero’s recent exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum, this collection of found paper drawings by the 40-year-old Washington Heights-born artist is an art fair in itself. Naivety and sophistication, innocence and insight change places in the work so quickly that you feel like you are on quicksand. All you can do is take the advice of red eyed zombie Superman in one piece and “dream your dream dreams”.

Pierogi, S4

A pair of Hugo Crosthwaite’s stop-motion animations, about a woman’s journey from Tijuana to the United States, are on display here, along with dozens of drawings used to make them. Made with both graphite and acrylic, the animated scenes reach a variety of haunting tones: acres of newspaper gray, crumpled against the shallow perspective of the designs, are periodically split by a sudden band of velvety black.


The armory show

Until Sunday at the Javits Center, Manhattan. Visitors must wear a mask and show proof of full vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours. Timed ticket office; thearmoryshow.com.


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