PULSE Cancels New York Edition, Launches New Year-Round Programming

All eyes are on Miami Beach.

Anne Spalter, Miami Marbles rendering for PULSE Miami Beach. Courtesy of Anne Spalter.

In the age of expansion, one fair is scaling back: PULSE.

The fair, which was founded in 2005, has announced the cancellation of its New York edition, and will focus on its bigger Miami Beach showing in December 2017. In the meantime, the fair will launch PULSE 360, a series of programs and events meant to engage the dealers and collectors alike in a larger conversation that will extend beyond the busy fair weeks.

“I’ve been very honest about how PULSE needs to evolve in order to support its exhibitors and engage with our visitors,” fair director Helen Toomer told artnet News in a phone call. “I feel like refocusing our efforts to one fair a year, with supplemental and engaging programming, we can provide a better experience all around.”

It is a somewhat unorthodox move, given that most art fairs are looking to try their luck in new cities, and it could leave the 45 dealers who showed at PULSE New York in 2016 scrambling for a slot of one the week’s other fairs. Toomer admitted that some exhibitors might be disappointed with the decision, but “we hope we can bring people back into the galleries,” which can sometimes be overlooked amid the hustle and bustle of the art fair circuit.

Helen Toomer. Courtesy of PULSE Contemporary Art Fair/photographer: Emily Johnston.

Helen Toomer. Courtesy of PULSE Contemporary Art Fair/photographer: Emily Johnston.

The New York edition of PULSE debuted during Armory Week in 2006, and has become a mainstay of the New York art fair circuit. But it hasn’t been without hiccups. The fair experimented with a three-year run during May’s Frieze Week, before returning to its March slot in 2015.

Nevertheless, it was unable to match the success of PULSE’s larger Miami edition, which featured 29 more galleries in 2016. “We definitely found that it provided a stronger platform for our exhibitors,” said Toomer. “It’s really a good time to focus on doing one thing and doing it really well.”

PULSE New York 2015. Photo: courtesy PULSE New York.

PULSE New York 2015. Courtesy PULSE New York.

She isn’t ruling out returning to a bi-annual model in future years, but sees PULSE 360 as a different way to expand the fair’s reach.

“There are so many conversations to be had about the art market and the world in general, especially after this year,” said Toomer. “We’d like to address these and promote an exchange of ideas with our varied audience throughout the year.”

She is planning programs for both New York and Miami, and hopes to tap into the fair’s global network of dealers and artists to potentially expand to other locations, because “I don’t think this conversation should be limited.”

Toomer, who took the helm in February 2014, began introducing such programming in advance of PULSE’s most recent Miami edition, organizing a panel discussion about issues faced by women professionals in the art world (full disclosure: this author was one of the evening’s participants).

PULSE plans to announce its inaugural slate of supplemental programs in the new year, and is optimistic about audience response. “With any change there will be disappointment,” Toomer admitted, “but it’s also going to be met with excitement and promise.”

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