After the Saga of Last Year’s Last-Minute Cancellation, VOLTA Returns to New York With New Leadership and New Purpose

The event returns to New York this March.

Installation view of VOLTA, 2018. Courtesy of VOLTA.

After a Shakespearean drama in 2019, VOLTA New York is returning for 2020 with renewed energy.

Last year, the fair was abruptly booted from its home on Pier 90 to make way for the colossus of the Armory Show (then its sister fair) after the Armory’s presumed home at Pier 92 was suddenly declared structurally unsound by the city.  

Kamiar Maleki was named in new director of VOLTA in November 2019.

Kamiar Maleki was named the new director of VOLTA in November 2019.

With no viable eleventh-hour alternative, the fair decided to cancel, only (in another twist) to be offered a lifeline as Plan B, an emergency pop-up fair for VOLTA dealers orchestrated by David Zwirner and collector Peter Hort. 

Now, with the whirlwind behind it, VOLTA is making a comeback with new leadership and a new location at Metropolitan West, an event venue on West 46th Street not far from the piers.

“We’re definitely looking ahead,” said the fair’s newly christened director, Kamiar Maleki, the former head of the Contemporary Istanbul art fair.

Late last year, VOLTA, which had been owned by Merchandise Mart, was purchased by Ramsay Fairs—a change that was welcomed by many. “VOLTA had been seen as the ‘side-fair,’” Maleki said. “Now it’s the main event.” 

Courtesy of VOLTA.

Courtesy of VOLTA.

Will Ramsay, CEO and founder of Ramsay Fairs, is happy to add the fair to his roster of now 16 events.

“I have always been impressed by the mix of dealers and the array of artists shown, and the consistency in attracting the serious collector in both New York and Basel. VOLTA is truly a unique and welcoming fair,” he said. “And now with Kamiar at the helm, VOLTA is poised for continued success.”

An international set of 54 galleries is coming for the 2020 return, and a series of new curated presentations will also be introduced.

“[We] loosened up the solo-project mandate to offer participants greater liberty to stage their presentations as they would do at their home galleries,” Maleki explained. “This all results in a balanced and curated VOLTA New York fair, one built on artistic discovery, as our founders understood.” 

Installation view of VOLTA, 2018. Courtesy of VOLTA.

Installation view of VOLTA, 2018. Courtesy of VOLTA.

And while special projects and one-off features are public attention-grabbers, Maleki says that right now, his focus is on building a fair of quality and substance.

“What is important to me is that there’s a huge list of returning galleries that haven’t done VOLTA in the past few years, but are coming back again,” he said. “We’re going back to basics to create a great platform for galleries to sell and collectors to buy.”

Among those making the return are Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans), Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery (Santo Domingo), Cynthia Corbett Gallery (London), The Flat – Massimo Carasi (Milan), and Cohju Contemporary Art (Kyoto).

Hiva Alizadeh, Untitled No. 14 — Nomad Chants (2019). Courtesy of The Flat – Massimo Carasi, Milan.

Hiva Alizadeh, Untitled No. 14 — Nomad Chants (2019). Courtesy of The Flat – Massimo Carasi, Milan.

An international set of newcomers are breathing some energy into the fair as well, with Gallery 1957 (Accra), JD Malat (London), and PIERMARQ (Syndey) jumping on board.

“We also have Marquee Gallery from Bellport, Long Island, joining this year,” Maleki said. “Last year was supposed to be their first year.”

And while VOLTA plans to make the hullabaloo of 2019 a distant memory, they haven’t forgotten last year’s hero, Peter Hort, who has joined the fair’s selection committee.

“I still believe art is about community,” Maleki said. “And in New York, there’s no bigger part of that community than the Horts.”

VOLTA New York’s 2020 edition will take place from March 4–8, 2020, at Metropolitan West.

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