Situated in a beautiful lofted space in the heart of TriBeCa, Independent NY is easily one of the most picturesque of the fairs returning to Armory Week this year. Looking out at the towering skyline of downtown Manhattan, the viewer’s gaze alternates between works hung close to the floor to ceiling glass paneling and on the erected walls nearby. The open plan and imaginative projects chosen only adds to the atmosphere, making Independent simultaneously a relaxed, mellow browsing experience and a deep dive into impeccably selected works.
This year was no different, and as the art fair opened its doors on a particularly gray March morning, the energy in the space was quite high. As collectors and press waited for packed elevators up to the gallery floors, a soft buzz seemed to snake through the crowed. This anticipation was not misplaced, as the elevator doors opened on a well-curated series of works that kept the buzz moving from room to room along with the fairgoers. The range of works was particularly striking, from a bizarre suitcase full of wigs by artist Kathleen White at Martos Gallery, to a series of Harold Ancart’s intriguing small-scale sculptures on view at Clearing Gallery. At Karma, a series of unique geometric works by Paul Mogensen were also a striking addition, staid abstraction that offered a strong counterpoint to many of the more imaginative and embellished works on view.
Perhaps best indicative of the latter category was a series of pieces by Terence Koh on view at Andrew Edlin. The works, drawn from the same body of work as his recent live-in experiments in Los Angeles and New York, included a large astronaut figure, covered in gems and jewels, laid flat as if ready for cremation. Offering a series of surreal notes that mingled with the artist’s recently re-enervated personal mythology, it was a fascinating addition to the fair landscape.
The fair also seems to be expanding deeper into the realms of historical works and significant bodies of practice from past eras. Marlborough Contemporary was showing pieces from painter Werner Büttner, the 63-year old German painter whose modes of painting compared well against the work of Jack Pierson at Cheim and Read, where a series of text pieces offered a more concrete interpretation of the everyday. Also of note was a show of small pieces and objects at Alden Projects including audio tape by Marcel Duchamp that almost begged for a handy tape player to give the piece life.
It’s worth considering that as the fair week gets increasingly bloated, fairs will continue to seek out more curated exhibitions, spaces where their work is guaranteed a smaller but more enthusiastic audience to ensure strong sales and return clients. If so, one only hopes that new projects take Independent as a vital example of how best to execute this strategy, one sure to bring visitors back for more each year.
The fair is open through March 11th.
— D. Creahan
Independent NY [Exhibition Site]