The Team That Brought TEFAF to New York Is Launching a New Hybrid Exhibition Space and Fair in the Old Barneys Flagship
Art House, as the new venture is called, will set up shop on Madison Avenue this fall.
In 1993, Barneys opened up its flagship on New York’s Madison Avenue—a 230,000-square-foot beacon of department store decadence that, as fate would have it, all but coincided with the arrival of the e-commerce boom a couple of years later. It closed last winter.
Now, a newfangled destination for art will set up shop in that same building this fall—and it, too, heralds a moment of rapid change in an industry.
The space, called Art House, is the newest venture from Michael Plummer, Jeff Rabin, and Geoff Fox, the organizers who previously brought the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) to New York. But whereas that event had a predestined shape and scope, Art House is a little trickier to define. It will encompass one-off exhibitions and semi-permanent salon-style displays, live talks and events, and even a new flagship series of fairs.
“I would say it’s a hybrid,” Plummer told Artnet News, noting that the bottom levels of the newly renovated building will operate like an event space twice a year during fair seasons, and something more resembling an exhibition hall the rest of the time. Higher floors, meanwhile, will be rented out to local galleries for short- or long-term use.
In a way, Art House actually aims to do for the art world what Barneys did for luxury shopping almost a century earlier: offer high-end wares from disparate sources all under one roof.
“This kind of model is really the next wave in the community,” Plummer said.
The new Upper East Side hub, which is being funded through private investments, will also feature a members club, a concierge service, and in-house storage facilities.
Perhaps its best analogue to Art House right now is Fotografiska, the for-profit photography museum (also located in a swanky uptown building) that merged with the membership space NeueHouse earlier this year. And yet, while Fotografiska is as much a place for social gathering as it is for seeing exhibitions, Art House is tailored more toward the art market, and specifically aims to address some of the business concerns facing small- and mid-sized galleries today.
“The big dealers were getting bigger,” Rabin said, recalling the circumstances that inspired Art House. “The art fairs were expanding and doing tremendous amounts of business, but there were too many of them and the amount of travel required was too much—people were getting tired of going to all these places around the world.”
Art House will open its doors this November with the inaugural edition of its new fair, Art House New York Fall. (A second, as-yet-unannounced edition will arrive in the spring. We can probably guess the name.)
For the event, 60 galleries will take over the first five floors of the building, including the street-level windows. Details about who will be exhibiting have not yet been shared, but Rabin said that the group will represent “high-quality dealers” whose offerings will span the “whole length of art history, from antiquity up through contemporary living artists.”
That kind of breadth is uncharacteristic of most art fairs, which tend to narrow focus by era and genre. It may not be what future Art House events look like either, but for the project’s introduction to the world, the founders wanted to demonstrate their commitment to “inclusivity. “Since this is our launch event, we want to show that we are going to be active across all categories of art,” Rabin said.
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