With the bustling, distributed selection of fairs and exhibition programs spread around New York City over the course of the week, it’s hard to imagine another iteration of the art fair model making a mark on Frieze Week in New York. Yet that’s just what the Object & Thing Fair aims to do, taking over the raw industrial halls of 99 Scott on the borders of Bushwick, East Williamsburg and Ridgewood aims to do. The fair, founded by former Frieze Artistic Director Abby Bangser, is an intriguing reimagining of the art fair, a sort of junior TEFAF that unites art objects, design pieces, furniture and other work under an open-format exhibition plan. Rather than providing the galleries participating with booths, the objects offered are arranged about the space, the result being an imminently browsable, engaging experience. What’s more, the fair is based around a commission model, experimenting with ways to make fairs more affordable and flexible.
The initial outing seems to have made good on the concept, reflecting an immediately accessible experience for the viewer. One could pass across the open courtyard outside the main building, pausing to view an enigmatic arrangement by artist Laila Gohar, an edible project that allowed the viewer too crack open vegetables coated in a thick material and eat the insides, before passing into the space, where works by Alan Shields greeted the viewer with an impressively colorful materiality. In another section, one could examine artist Zak Kitnick’s Backgammon board sculpture courtesy Clearing Gallery (some even sat down for a quick game), a fitting fusion of design and art object that felt right at home in the fair’s unique curatorial prompt. Anton Kern had also brought a unique selection of objects by Martino Gamper, Richard Hughes and more, spreading objects throughout the space in a manner that underscored mixtures of domesticity, imaginative reframings of utilitarian goods, and the occasional flicker of the surreal, a note that was echoed in the sculpture of Amalia Pica on view at Herald St.
Perhaps that’s the most notable element of the fair, a presentation that not only explores new models for the the presentation and selling of work in the modern market landscape, but equally one uniquely attuned to the nature of many modern artists’ practices. For many artists working at junctures of socially-engaged objects, hybrid practices and a deeper engagement between the creative hand and lived experience, the fair presents a body of works that cast aside easy assumptions, or easy framings of the world, its art, and its artists.
The fair is open through Sunday, May 5th.
— D. Creahan
Object and Thing Art Fair [Exhibition Site]