Scope Art Fair Delivers a Colorful Punch of Wild, Wacky Art Including Björk

Monkeys mingle with Panda bears and Björk.

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Hubert Kretzschmar, Bjork (2015). Photo: Courtesy Licht Feld Gallery, Basel.
Ross Bonfanti, Endangered Species (2015).
Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Hossack.
Karen Nicol, Shrew (2012).
Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Hossack.
Hubert Kretzschmar, Bjork (2015). Photo: Courtesy Licht Feld Gallery, Basel.
Hubert Kretzschmar, Bjork (2015).
Photo: Courtesy Licht Feld Gallery, Basel.
Marck, Tank.
Photo: Courtesy Licht Feld Gallery, Basel.
Neil Williams, Untitled (ca. 1972-74).
Photo: Courtesy db Fine Art, New York.
George Condo, Untitled (1983).
Photo: Courtesy db Fine Art, New York.
Photo: Courtesy Hamburg Kennedy Gallery, New York.
Banksy, No Ball Games, Green (2009).
Photo: Courtesy Hamburg Kennedy Gallery, New York.

Besides bravery in navigating snowbanks, the most prevalent theme at this year’s Armory Week was consolidation, as several top satellite fairs relocated to be closer to the major one, the Armory Show, including VOLTA, the Armory’s sister fair, and Scope, which moved from Moynihan Station (current site of the Spring/Break Art Fair) to 46th street off the West Side Highway and just around the corner from the piers.

The spacious two-floor venue and semi-open layout is a great fit for the eclectic mix of international galleries. The art on view ranges from blue chip Pop to street art and emerging art. As in past editions of Scope, there  seems to be a bigger-than-your-average-art-fair dose of wild, wacky, and downright bizarre art that is nonetheless tons of fun. (See: Spring/Break Art Fair Is Bigger, Flashier, and Scrappier Than Ever and Must See Single-Artist Booths at VOLTA Delight and Dazzle).

Among Karen Nicol’s images of rodents in the booth of Rebecca Hossack gallery, for instance, Shrew (2012) depicts a mouse in profile, proudly sporting a pink ribbon that reads “Best in Breed” underneath of which is “No.1, ” and the confounding explanation “Metropolitan Police Dog Championships 1474.”

Nearby, in the same booth, Ross Bonfanti’s ragged stuffed animals were on pedestals: a hapless Panda bear stuck through with nail-like steel spikes, titled Endangered Species, and Crashsite, an upside-down stuffed bear resting on rusty tin cans. We have to admit these put us in the mind of sketch comedy series Portlandia‘s recent brilliant art skit (see Take An Exclusive Look at Shepard Fairey’s Portlandia Cameo).

Chelsea gallerist Marla Hamburg of Hamburg Kennedy typically specializes in photographs. But for this outing, she decided to build her booth around the theme of street art, and features artists including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Mr. Brainwash (as well as Mr. Brainwash’s 21-year-old son Hijack) and others who are not street artists per se but who she felt fit with the aesthetic: Jose Parla, Mark Bradford, and Peter Tunney.

Handling street art is a whole different ballgame than the rest of the fine art world, Hamburg, who collects street art herself, told artnet News noting that she fields “dozens of calls from collectors all over the world every day.” “They are voracious,” she said, “not the usual collector.”

Dean Borghi, director of db Fine Art in New York, is a first-time exhibitor at Scope and his booth is packed with Pop art including works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Robert Indiana, as well as classics like Francis Bacon’s “mutilated” canvases. There’s also work by lesser-known Long Island painter Neil Williams, who worked with artists including Frank Stella, and whose estate Borghi now represents. Borghi called Scope’s new location “ideal,” and was enthusiastic about the proximity to the Armory Show.

One of the first booths visitors encounter at the entrance is Basel’s Licht Feld Gallery, filled with wall-hung video works by Swiss handyman-turned full-time-artist Marck. The works (some of which are extremely Bill Viola-esque) include Gegenstrom XXL (2015), a looped video sculpture in which a woman immersed in water partly swims and partly climbs the steel frames that are at the center of the work and seem to be part of the swimming pool as well (see CONTEXT Art Miami Sets Its Sights On Emerging Art).

At the same booth, we encountered Hubert Kretzschmar, the artist behind an eye-catching pigment print, titled Björk (2015), which depicts the iconic Icelandic singer with overlaid laser-cut Acrylglas spelling out her name.

Of course we had to ask whether his choice of subject had been influenced by the already much-panned MoMA show (see Ladies and Gentleman, the Björk Show at MoMA Is Bad, Really Bad and The 6 Best Takedowns of MoMA’s Appalling Björk Show). Kretzschmar denied that his choice was connected to that show and explained that he is a huge Björk fan and had had the idea for a while.

Since arriving in New York in the 1970s, Kretzschmar, who is a longtime veteran of the music business, has designed covers for rock icons the Rolling Stones and Kraftwerk, the latter of whom MoMA PS1 director brought to New York for an Armory Party opening night a few years ago. It seems we’ve come full circle.

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