Ben Austin’s NY Armory Week Diary – Day 4
What can one day about the Independent Fair down in the art heartland of Chelsea? Open planned and booth free, invited exhibitors rather than applications. This is a high-minded art fair with conceptual work abound. There is no frenzy of activity, no entrance charge and no concession stands selling overpriced coffee. The atmosphere much like the art is refined and minimal. A purist fair for the intellectual art world insider, this I’m sure can be unsettling for a novice and I was left at times scratching my head, saying to myself, ‘I don’t get this’ or ‘I need the subtext or even the context’.
I started though with the most accessible image of a Buddhist monk juxtaposed with a US Marine was particularly arresting and was on at $15K (edition 5 see top photo). Near to this space was McCaffrey Fine Art, who had an excellent installation by Meschac Gaba, which consisted of cheap found clocks onto the faces the artist had placed pictures of African dictators. A common object, found in every home, now contains an image someone to be feared and reviled. The artist had also made ‘portrait’ head pieces, made by traditional African weaving, thus Karl Marx is portrayed by a knitted hammer and sickle. This must be a crafted reference to the horrific impact of Communism upon the African continent.
Moving on to the wonderful Maureen Paley, she kindly gave me her time and quite relishes the moniker of be a ‘blue chip independent’. Maureen was there when the yBa’s were just starting out, an astute art world insider, who has tales to tell. Her area (as stated there are no traditional booths here) was of the highest quality, works on paper by David Salle (sold at $9K), a Tilmans photograph on at $16K (edition of 3), a small sculpture by Rebecca Warren and superb painting by Thomas Eggerer sold at $60K.
Elsewhere, Herald St had a series of sculptures of Nicole Wermers, consisting of plates and cooking equipment, common objects carefully stacked and arranged. International Art Objects were showing some surprising, good paintings by Billy Childish and over at Jack Hanley I was taken by the metallic work of Jeff Williams. Overall the Independent Fair is a smart and discerning alternative to the hype and heavy priced work to be found at the Piers. It does leave one at times puzzled and even confused but being challenged when it comes to contemporary art is no bad thing.
As I mentioned in my last piece, I went to see David Zwirner new space and the Boetti collection at Gladstone, so here is an image taken there. I also want to mention that I had a private tour of Sean Kelly’s amazing new space up on 36th St and 10 Ave. They have a two-person show on, featuring the incredible optical/smoke projections by Anthony McGall and gorgeous black and white paintings by James White. Also I have to mention the multi-screen video work by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson showing at Luhring Augustine, a musical communal piece which was poetic and totally enthralling.
Today is the last day of the fairs, so for some light relief I may pop by Scope, but really want to visit the Matisse exhibition at the Met.