New fair embraces unlikely pairs and profit sharing
Armory Week in New York, like every fairground week anywhere, is a dizzying carousel of office lighting and modular walls, peppered with mostly forgettable art and punctuated with the occasional moments of aesthetic discovery. As far as I’m concerned, fewer art fairs are better than more, and whenever I hear about a new one I’m immediately skeptical and instantly bored. This is the cynical attitude that I dragged with me as I entered Future Art Fair in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, a new exhibition that bills itself as innovative and supportive of its exhibitors – promises I’ve heard packed. and repackaged by entrepreneurs in the art world over the years that for the most part turn out to be a flash in the pan.
What makes Future different, however, is its collaborative financial model: co-founders Rachel Mijares Fick and Rebeca Laliberte will share 35% of all profits equally among the founding galleries for the first five years of the show. (The fair generates income through booth sales, ticket sales, sponsorships, and additional activities like its annual holiday market, a spokesperson said.) It’s also more intimate than the Heavy Armory and even the younger, cooler Independent. A self-proclaimed âcapsule-sized exhibitionâ, Future brings together 34 galleries in joint presentations (exhibitors can apply with a gallery of their choice or be matched by the fair organizers).
The result is 16 manageable stalls featuring combinations of artwork that sometimes work and sometimes not. The New York City Dinner gallery featured a dual display of mystical paintings by Amie Cunat and sultry sculptures by Langdon Graves against a mustard wall (exhibitors were offered four choices of wall colors; Graves cleverly combined them for create the remarkable hue). Next door is a stand of paintings and drawings by Shannon McConnell and Pedro VÃ©lez from the Seattle SEASON gallery; wacky, semi-abstract works that couldn’t be more different from the design-infused aesthetic of their neighbors. I can’t imagine a museum curator bringing these two pairs together in a group show, but Future has a YOLO experimental vibe that tests the alchemy of dissonance.
Other exhibitors have chosen to embrace the affinities between their programs. Local galleries Trotter & Sholer and Swivel have joined forces in a thoughtful monochromatic exhibition of photographs by Joseph Cochran, collages by Pajtim Osmanaj and oil pastels by LujÃ¡n PÃ©rez surrounding a round installation of the towering porcelain sculptures by Derek Weisberg . All of these artists could fend for themselves – Osmanaj’s trompe l’oeil theatrical landscape pieces are fascinating – but together they shine.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Khidr Joseph’s installation âUntitled (Uncle Bill)â (2021) on the stand of the Dominique Gallery in Los Angeles. Against a life-size hunter-green plywood wall enclosure that resembles the fence erected around construction sites, complete with graffiti-engraved signage on hard hats, Joseph glued to the wheat a black-and-white photograph of a smiling Bill Cosby with a bubble announcing, “I am a rapist.” The artwork is a replica of a mural the artist created in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in July, when the disgraced artist, accused of sexual misconduct and sexual assault by more than 50 women, been released from prison.
Despite attempts by some passers-by to strip or degrade it, the mural is still standing at the corner of Hancock Street and Tompkins Avenue, gallerist Dominique Clayton told me; Khidr is known for inserting messages that elicit a response directly in a community. I then asked him what it meant to show such a work in the rarefied space of an art fair.
âWhen you think of street art and murals, foot traffic and the passing things, unlike an art fair and art consumption, they seem like two disparate things, but in reality it’s all transactional. , especially black culture and the way we have consumed in different ways, âClayton said. âThat’s why I felt the need to bring it into this space, because I think they’re parallel conversations: what are we consuming? What is transactional? What is the conversation about? “
âAnd as a black gallery owner, it’s important for me to dictate what this conversation is,â she added. âI feel a responsibility. “
The next editions of this show would be improved thanks to a stronger selection of its participants. Most of the works on display seemed to me to be derivative (art historians reading this I can feel you roll your eyes, but please support me), like something my subconscious made up at random for a dream about postmodernist practices. The exhibition’s founding claim to innovation would benefit from a similar commitment to inventiveness on the part of its galleries.
But Future Art Fair is warm and welcoming, and the exhibitors seem relaxed and chatty, making dialogues like my exchange with Dominique possible. Small-scale works are also easier to admire, like Quentin James McCaffrey’s ten-by-eight-inch oils of imagined interiors, gems that could be swallowed up elsewhere. If the sterile but frenetic mega-fair environment overwhelms you, like me, this is a refreshing option.
Future Art Fair continues at the Starrett-Lehigh Building (600 W 27th Street, Manhattan) until Sunday, September 12.
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