I’ve been to more art fairs than I can count, but the ones that I’ve had fun at I could count on two hands. Many are too big, dealers are either stressed out or bored, mundane work or work that is inaccessible or silly. The last show that I went to before the pandemic was The Armory Show at the westside piers. It was a few days before the world shut down and the fair was eerily empty. I wandered alone through a fair that typically had been jam packed with beautiful art lovers. And then everything went quiet for about a year and a half.
Since the pandemic is now over (old news!) the NYC art fairs have come roaring back and this past week has been what feels like an avalanche of art and art related events. Overwhelming, to say the least.
I’ve always been keen on the smaller venues – The Metropolitam Pavillion is a perfect size venue for an art fair. Second to that, in no hierarchical order is the old Dia Building on west 22nd street. The building, despite its extreme verticality, exudes good vibes and holds many memories of great exhibitions and fairs. Suffused with good light, remnants of the building’s industrial past and a new (at least to me) rooftop space. It’s little surprise that visiting NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) 2023 is so satisfying.
On the whole the work being shown is sophisticated and mature. The exhibition space is nicely laid out, giving the galleries space to curate coherently, but not over-stuff the space. I have never attended an art fair where so many dealers seemed, well, happy. From speaking without about 1/3 of the dealers it appears that first day sales were good. That always makes art dealers happy, but beyond that the general vibe was upbeat and energetic. One suggestion to exhibitors- maybe have the name of the artist available to those visiting your booth. Demanding that everyone use a QR code on their phone to find out who you’re showing is a buzz kill.
Here, in no particular order are things that I fell in love with:
Glorious still life paintings at Jack Hanley Gallery (see opening photo). Though “still life” is a misnomer, as these paintings are anything but still. Bursting with energy, color and sly surprises.
Shrine Gallery, whose program consistently shows a mix of contemporary and self-taught artists has brough the sculpture of Kambel Smith. Smith is a self-taught artist who makes very large scale architectural models of famous buildings and monuments from discarded cardboard. The sculptures are both funny and poignant. A mashup of scale and proportion animates these iconic buildings, everything seems ready to dance.
Europa Gallery has one of the most coherently curated booths, showcasing sculpture by Brandon Morris, carved wooden stools/sculptures by Nik Gelormino and paintings by Brian Degraw
Making their first visit to NADA and NYC is South Parade from London. They brought a small, but stunning group of carved and painted wood wall reliefs by Tom Hardwick. Totally fresh work, they are like microcosm Universes, a must see.
I’ve long been interested in the mixed material work of Sacha Ingber and was happy to see a beautiful grouping of their work at Rachel Uffner Gallery.
Luis de Jesus has brought a suite of narrative paintings by Aaron Maier-Carretero. The show is entitled “a lobster named dinner”. Viewed all together the paintings tell a short story, based on childhood memories of family and food. They are awash in luscious color. I found myself drawn to the most stripped down of the group. The richly painted surface of the black, white and grey painting told its own story.
Focusing on portraiture, Galerie Anne Barrault has brought some deeply moving paintings on paper by Marie Losier. Though I didn’t connect with the videos, the portraits were very powerful.
If you can fight your way through the jungle of competing art fairs and cultural events in NYC this weekend and have the bandwidth to look at one more fair, this would be the one.
NADA NY- 548 West 22nd St.
About the Writer: Melissa Stern lives in NYC and The Hudson Valley. She studied Anthropology and Art History at Wesleyan Univ. Her mixed material sculpture and drawings are in a number of corporate and museum collections including The International Center For Collage, News Corp. Inc. JP Morgan Chase, The Arkansas Art Center, The Racine Art Museum, The Museum of Art and Design and The Wiseman Museum in Minneapolis. Her multi-media project The Talking Cure has been touring the United States since 2012, showing at The Akron Museum of Art, Redux Contemporary Art Center (Charleston), The Weisman Museum, Real Art Ways (Hartford) and The Kranzberg Art Center (St. Louis), and at The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton.MA. She has written about art and culture for The New York Press and CityArts for eight years and is a contributing writer to Hyperallergic and artcritical. Melissa has joined Art Spiel as co-editor and