Independent Art Fair Offers a Stylish Chelsea Haven During Armory Week

The Rubells discovered Oscar Murillo there in 2012. Who's next?

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Achraf Touloub, After Paris (2015).
Photo: Courtesy of PLAN B.
Jean-Pascal Flavien, Rose! There will be so much room (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Catherine Bastide
William Pope. L, Gold People Shit In Their Valet (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Catherine Bastide
William Pope L., Gold People Shit In Their Valet (2014) Exhibition Views.
Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Catherine Bastide.
Michiel Ceuleurs, C'est le ton qui fait la musique: (The Lonely Hearts Killers) (2013-2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Roberto Ruiz.
Hugh Scott-Douglas, Untitled (2015).
Charles Harlan, Tree (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Ribordy Contemporary.
Andrea Büttner, Images in Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.
Andrea Büttner, Piano (2013).
Photo: Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.
Andrea Büttner, Ramp (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.
Jan Peter Hammer, Sad Smiley (2012).
Photo: Courtesy of LABOR.
Jan Peter Hammer, Tilikum (2013).
Photo: Courtesy of LABOR.
Pedro Reyes,Cuerpomático (2013).
Photo: Courtesy of LABOR.
Mitchell Syrop, All men are created equal... (1982).
Photo: Courtesy of Croy Nielsen.
Mitchell Syrop, Sit In Judgment (1982).
Photo: Courtesy of Croy Nielsen.
Navid Nurr, Passage (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Navid Nurr.
Torey Thornton, Blue Peahead With Girly Raincoat (2013).
Photo: Courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art.
Torey Thornton, Gonna Wear The Turtle Neck or Gator Back (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art.
Torey Thornton, You Pissed On My Suburban (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art.
Navid Nuur, From The Eye Codex of the Monochrome (2012).
Photo: Courtesy of Plan B Cluj.

The sixth edition of the Independent art fair (March 5–8) brings together more than fifty galleries from fourteen countries in a small, relatively welcoming setting at the former Dia building in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood, surrounded by hundreds of galleries.

Collectors and curators dependably find young artists they might not have seen yet in New York or the US overall, with about half the exhibitors coming from Europe (the other half are mostly American, with a handful from Central and South America). Miami collectors Mera and Don Rubell discovered Colombian market phenom Oscar Murillo there in 2012.

You won’t find megagalleries like Gagosian or David Zwirner (they’ll be busy at the Armory, with its 199 exhibitors, and/or the ADAA Art Show, with a more modest 72) (see Plan Your Armory Week 2015 With Our Guide to the Best Art on Show and What Top Dealers Are Bringing to the ADAA Art Show). You won’t find loads of galleries from the Middle East or Asia.

“We specialize in being a fair of a certain scale,” fair co-founder and New York dealer Elizabeth Dee told artnet News when asked about this geographical focus. “At our size you cannot show the entire world well.”

But you will find stylish, plugged-in dealers like New York’s JTT and Mexico City’s Kurimanzutto, along with Los Angeles’s Hannah Hoffman, all of whom are exhibiting at Independent for the first time. Other exhibitors range from Herald St, from London, and David Kordansky, another Angeleno, to Paris’s Balice Hertling and New York nonprofit stalwart Artists Space. The fair is known for having plentiful natural light and an unconventional open installation, with no walls between booths (with the slight downside that you don’t always know whose “booth” you’re in).

“Though L.A. is a fantastic place to be,” Hoffman told artnet News, “there aren’t as many galleries here. So a fair like Independent lets you be part of something that’s incredibly rewarding. It’s a great community of like-minded people.”

While it’s Hoffmann’s first go-round at the fair proper, she did show at the add-on Independent Projects in November (see Independent Projects Hosts a Winning Mix of Galleries). At the time, she had been in business for less than a year, and that was her fourth fair—a fine illustration of what a crucial investment these fairs have become for young dealers who want to get the word out about their business.

New York’s Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, which regularly comes through with striking displays at fairs, will offer new works—eight to 10 paintings—by German-born LA resident Silke Otto Knapp, who has a show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and showed last year at venues ranging from Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna to Fogo Island, in Newfoundland, in a show curated by Kunsthalle Wien director Nicolas Schaffhausen. The large watercolor-on-canvas works will be split between Newfoundland landscapes and portraits of Virginia Woolf.

With the Armory Show, the ADAA Art Show, and New York museums and galleries putting their best foot forward next week, it’s tough to see everything.

“That’s one good thing about participating in the fair—you get a pass from doing so many of the side events because you’re stuck in your booth,” Hoffmann said. She does, however, plan to slip away to see Sarama Golden’s dramatic, two-story installation at MoMA PS1, and catch Wael Shawky’s exhibition “Cabaret Crusades” while she’s there (see Puppet Jihad at MoMA PS1 Puts Burlesque Into Extremism).

This will be the final outing for the boutique fair at its current venue (see Owner of Former Dia Building Ousts Independent Art Fair and Zach Feuer).

The fair was conceived by New York dealer Elizabeth Dee and Londoner Darren Flook (who at the time was running his own gallery, Hotel, and now works for London’s Max Wigram). White Columns’ Matthew Higgs is creative advisor, with Gavin Brown’s Laura Mitterand serving as director.

“With that brain trust,” said Hoffman, “I’m sure they’ll find someplace amazing.”

Dee couldn’t be specific, but in terms of a new venue, she said, “We’ve got something under way.”

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