Harlem’s First FLUX Art Fair Shines
This new fair is not to be missed.
A stone’s throw from Randall’s Island, Frieze‘s newest satellite fair—and Harlem’s first—debuted Wednesday night at the historic Corn Exchange building on East 125th Street. FLUX Art Fair brings much-needed diversity to New York’s contemporary art scene.
Though it was only a few minutes ride from the week’s main event, the vibe couldn’t have been more different. Whereas Frieze is a bit of a frenzied madhouse, with visitors anxiously queuing up to get their hands on an artist-made poncho (see Frieze VIPs Go Wild For Pia Camil’s Free Ponchos), paint part of an artwork that will ultimately sell for $100,000 (see Leonardo DiCaprio, Mike Myers, Grace Celebrity VIP Frieze New York Preview), or snag a table at Frankie’s Spuntino (see A Hungry Art Lover’s Guide to the the Best Food at Frieze New York), FLUX was laid-back, and decidedly unpretentious.
As one typically expects at a debut fair, there were strong works, and there were not-so-strong works, each ostensibly reflective of the evening’s theme, the “the 21st century artist as a nomad.” Sui Park’s Mostly Cloudy, a hanging array of ethereal oblong forms created from interlocking zip ties made for a dramatic entryway, while Margaret Roleke’s Shells 3, a festive-looking multicolored garland ominously created from spent shotgun shells, was among the highlights on the second floor.
What stood out the most, however, was the evening’s diversity, both among the guests and the exhibiting artists. Harlem is a community with many voices, and FLUX is truly a reflection of that. Artists hailed from 12 countries, and include four African, 17 African-American, five Asian, and eight Hispanic artists, many of whom live or work nearby. (See Tom Finkelpearl Wants To Diversify Leadership at New York’s Culture Hubs.)
“It’s wonderful to have a fair in this part of town,” the artist Lina Puerta told artnet News. Both she and her husband, Alexis Duque, are Harlem residents, and are showing work at the fair. She was pleased that “they really made an effort to include local artists.” Her rustic-looking sculptures, created from richly decorated concrete embellished with tiles, feathers, and other materials, are inspired by the idea of “nature penetrating the urban landscape.”
“It would be great if the they could continue to show art [at the venue] permanently,” the artist David Shrobe told artnet News. Shrobe showed two paintings at the fair, including Another Makeover, where he reimagines Aunt Jemima (above). He’s lived in Harlem for two decades, and the local studio where he works is a condo apartment that has been in his family since 1925.
Though the fair was small, it offered a strong message: Harlem’s art community is not to be take for granted. This is a fair with plenty of room to grow, in a neighborhood that is eager to let it do just that.
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