As I was walking through the halls of Moynihan Station, weaving in and out of noir offices, I overheard a reporter repeatedly saying into a flip phone, as if he was relaying the latest from the frontlines, “It’s renegade, renegade!” I chuckled and kept meandering.
SPRING/BREAK is indeed a bit of a renegade. It has and continues to do its own thing, being the only curated fair I am aware of that doesn’t take exhibitor fees, but rather asks for a cut of sales. If you’re familiar with how fairs work, you may be aghast at such a proposition and I’m right there with you; it doesn’t seem feasible. However, the results are always pretty interesting and the work of Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly is definitely a labor of love (the two even got married at their own fair last year).
The focus on curation has paid off with impressively immersive installations and a robust and rigorous cross-section of the (mainly New York) young art scene. Though the logistics were a bit confused in this new space within Moynihan Station for the fair, SPRING/BREAK was remarkable in the slips of time and place that its DIY approach engendered. From a room full of office rubble (false ceiling tiles and stucco) crowned with a twin bed, to multiple corners bedecked with beanbag chairs and unicorn stickers, SB curators did a truly remarkable job transforming abandoned office space into immersive vignettes. The edition's theme ⌘COPY⌘PASTE was there but the works could have easily been anywhere as post-internet practices of copy and paste, mass production, and cutesy narcissism abound in contemporary practices. Perhaps the theme was too spot-on to really stand out but this is a minor criticism as SPRING/BREAK presents its best version to date.
Armory, on the other hand, was pretty subdued this year. The overall aesthetic seemed reserved, calculated, less ostentatious, perhaps owing to the fact that the overall art market is in a state of contraction, leaving only the diehard collectors interested in buying major works. Galerie W. Baudach, Kavi Gupta, and The Breeder were the highlights for me.
Armory's Focus: African Perspectives section presents some of the most interesting work with many artists working in Arte Povera-style appropriations of both material and cultural ditritus. Armory Focus always tends to be a bit problematic, representing underserved regions in cliché form to an audience that expects the expected with little depth or intervention. And, given the return rate of galleries from previous Focus regions, the program seems to do little to create or maintain sustained exposure for art or galleries from said regions. I honestly wouldn't mind if the lip service that is Focus just went away.
Volta extended the theme of immersive installations this year with their solo show set up. Elana Herzog with STUDIO10 gallery picked apart towels and tapestries, leaving worn bits of color and fluff stapled to wood. Alfredo Esquillo Jr., a Filipino artist presenting with the Osaka-based gallery YOD, represents the cultural melange and subsequent shattering thereof with old-testament paintings that shear apart and seep onto the floor. Derek Fordjour's paintings at Papillion Gallery of LA are full of tension, joy and sadness, precariousness, and are just great to finally see in person. Simon Linke at Carriage Trade continues his series of paintings of exhibition cards. Thick, robust, and messy, they fight with their easy conceit.
All three fairs are worth the time and cultural fatigue but if you're really looking for artists being artists —SPRING/BREAK and Volta NY are where it's at this year.
Follow us on Instagram for more pics from the rest of the fairs during Armory Week 2016.
(Image at top: Ed Fornieles at CARLOS/ISHIKAWA, The Armory Show Contemporary. All images: Courtesy of the author)