Youthful, Edgy Independent Art Fair Looms Large in the Art World

Energy and fun define the scrappy satellite fair.

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Nicolas party at The Modern Institute.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Mitchell Syrop at Croy Nielson.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Cosima von Bonin, Smoke at Galerie NEU.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Tanya Leighton Gallery.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Isa Genzken at Artist Space.
Photo: Christie Chu
David Maljkovic at Sprüth Magers.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Charles Harlan at JTT.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Jean Pascal Flavien at Catherine Bastide.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Isabelle Carnaro at Hannah Hoffman Gallery.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Nicolas Party, Portraits at The Modern Institute.
Photo: Christie Chu.
Hans Christian-Lotz at David Lewis.
Photo: Christie Chu.
John Rabinovitz at Martos Gallery.
Photo: Christie Chu.

The snowstorm didn’t hinder fair-goers from attending the preview of Independent fair’s sixth edition. Maybe it even made attendees stay a bit longer. The cozy satellite fair housed at Centre 548 in the city’s Chelsea area saw galleries from fourteen countries, with an emphasis on art hubs New York, Berlin, and London.

Navigating the hijinks of the fair was a bit difficult since the “booths” were not separated into specific boxed-off spaces but sectioned off by diagonal walls, creating a kind of maze or puzzle-like layout. But that’s the vibe of the show—it’s sort of experimental and challenging, done in a tasteful way.

Here you’ll find smaller galleries not showing at the Armory Show, but you’ll also find galleries who are exhibiting work at both. For instance, Sprüth Magers, who also has a booth at Armory likes to show at Independent because they can exhibit work that isn’t so commercial. Director of the gallery, Andreas Gegner, told artnet News, “visitors come to Independent for more challenging art and are prepared to accept off the beat [sic] artworks.”

The Berlin and London gallery’s projection piece by Croatian artist David Maljkovic is a good example. Eighteen images of landscapes, or “behind-the-scene” shots, with objects taken from a film set are projected onto a white wall creating a kind of documentary slideshow. Every image is distorted by a pixilation of the object in the image, blocking the viewer from fully getting an understanding of what is being shown and what is going on.

Neil Beloufa at Balice Hertling. Photo: Christie Chu.

Neil Beloufa at Balice Hertling.
Photo: Christie Chu.

Paris-based Balice Hertling brought a sculpture, installation, video, and sound work by French artist Neil Beloufa. The interactive work made out of wood, his signature hammered steel (seen in his Vintage Series), wires, and plastic, is a three-tiered structure that includes a digital projector that displays a video with headphones so viewers can listen to a man in sunglasses saying “there’s a lot of definitions of what’s best because it’s so subjective”. He then proceeds to promote a sort of condominium apartment lifestyle.

Balice and Hertling’s former partner David Lewis, who opened his own space in New York in 2013, brought work by Hans-Christian Lotz—his solo show is on view at the gallery in the Lower East Side from those who would like to see more work by this rising star. The work at the fair is a milky-white solar panel with plastic pig brains embedded into the frame. A similar work was at NADA in Miami (see NADA Art Fair is The Most Fun You’ll Have in Miami) in December last year.

Glasgow’s Modern Institute had an expansive space on the building’s fourth floor focused on the work of a single Swiss artist, Nicholas Party. (Great surname for a contemporary artist by the way.) Party creates beautifully composed, vibrant if conventional portraits and still life images which he displays in an unconventional way, hung on painted, scuffed-up walls as a reference to his early years in Switzerland in the 1990s as a graffiti artist.

Unlike the Armory Show, which has considerably less “on-trend” neon-light artwork this year (see Don’t Miss Our Critics Picks at the Sprawling, Exciting Armory Show 2015), Independent has quite a bit of neon-based art. Berlin’s Galerie Neu booth was hung with a work by 43-year-old German artist Cosima von Bonin, a massive neon outline of a cigarette with smoke trailing out of its lit end. Everything that’s old is new again, it seems, but unlike neon, cigarettes probably won’t be staying in vogue.

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