Andy Warhol Homages Aside, PULSE Art Fair Doesn’t Disappoint

New leadership gives popular fair a facelift.

Tseng Kwong Chi Warhol Red Room Eric Firestone Gallery

At one point at PULSE Art Fair, it struck me that I had counted at least three Andy Warhol homages at Eric Firestone and one at Art 3.

Can you find the others?

But I digress. Even with the slight Pop Art overkill, the popular Frieze satellite fair does not disappoint this year. In fact, under the new leadership of former Collective Design fair director Helen Toomer, it’s gotten a facelift. While still housed in the Metropolitan Pavilion, visitors will find that the fair is physically smaller this year, taking up just a single floor comprised of a more curated selection of just over 50 booths. The champagne has been moved to the back of the house, and it’s clear that PULSE is growing up, though it’s not quite there yet.

The best aspect of this year’s fair is hands down the PULSE Projects program. Interspersed throughout, these are engaging, somewhat offbeat large-scale sculptures and installations that feel refreshingly non-commercial.

Of note is Simon Vega’s The Whitney Museum of Central American Art, A Post-Apocalyptic Dream (2014) a futuristic rendering of Breuer’s masterpiece, constructed with wood, plants, lights, and found objects. It is a testament to Central American art, which the artist feels is woefully underrepresented, as well as Modernist architecture, found objects, and post-apocalyptic fantasies. Just across the way is Shantell Martin’s You Are You (2014), a booth comprised of whimsically doodled walls full of words, faces, and strange critters.

Simón Vega, <em>The Whitney Museum of Central American Art, A Post-Apocalyptic Dream</eM> installation at the PULSE Art Fair. Photo courtesy MARTE Contemporary at MARTE Museum.

Simón Vega, The Whitney Museum of Central American Art, A Post-Apocalyptic Dream installation at the PULSE Art Fair. Photo courtesy MARTE Contemporary at MARTE Museum.

Speaking of offbeat art, we witnessed a buyer gushing into his cell phone at the Black & White Gallery booth over Cynthia Consentino’s delightfully bizarre ceramic sculptures of a little girl eating a flower, a chicken with the head of a man, and birds with the heads of beautiful women. Their lyrical qualities, as though they were freshly imported from a dream sequence, set them in a class above above other works at the fair, and also made us wonder if the artist has ever considered doing album cover art in her spare time.

Cynthia Consentino Flower Girl IV and Birdies Black & White Gallery Photo: Cait Munro

Cynthia Consentino, Flower Girl IV and Birdies at Black & White Gallery. Photo by Cait Munro.

Aside from the aforementioned Warhol fixation, trends include several pieces of text art—some more successful than others—and a lot of exquisite photography, especially at Zemack Contemporary. Visit this Tel Aviv–based gallery’s booth and then please let us know if you can tell which works are paintings and which are photographs. We have a feeling your mind will be blown.

The fair’s relatively small size makes it easy to consume and not challenging to revisit your favorite booths after the first go around. It also strikes a good balance between fun and substance, with a smattering of big names and a sizable pool of lesser-known artists. Other booths we recommend checking out include De Buck Gallery, which features gritty, touching photographs from Andrea Tese’s Inheritance series; C24 Gallery, touting some of our favorite text art of the day; and Zadok Gallery, where a crowd was gathered to witness Technicolor light-up robots. Oh, and if you want to catch a glimpse of Prince William and Duchess Kate (in portrait form, unfortunately), stop by the Art 3 booth.

Robert Montgomery Monuments, 2013 Oak, Polymer, 12 Volt LED lights 71 x 69 in. (180.3 x 175. C24 gallery

Robert Montgomery, Monuments (2013). Photo courtesy of C24 gallery.

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