New York Art Week kicks off a busy spring of fairs, auctions and more

New York Art Week, having its inaugural run 5-12 May, was seeded last winter with a few conference calls among the leaders of New York-based art institutions and fairs. The Independent art fair founder Elizabeth Dee was on the phone with the likes of Noah Horowitz, formerly of Art Basel now of Sotheby’s, or White Columns director Matthew Higgs to brainstorm about the realities of a post-pandemic landscape and the art calendar’s frequent shifts due to last-minute virus variants and travel restrictions.

“Suddenly four art fairs and three auction houses are opening within the same week—which never happened before,” Dee says at the Spring Studios, where her fair’s 13th edition opens on 5 May with 67 international galleries. “There is no hierarchy between the events—we all do something different but anchor a week together.”

In addition to Independent, the international heavyweight Tefaf opens at the Park Avenue Armory (5-8 May), while Nada makes its much-awaited return to New York at Pier 36 after a four-year hiatus (5-8 May) and the youngest of the bunch, Future Fair, welcomes visitors at the Chelsea Industrial Building (5-7 May). While many of the season’s major New York auctions, especially at Sotheby’s and Phillips, will take place later in the month concurrent with Frieze New York, Christie’s will cap off New York Art Week with major evening sales on 9, 10 and 12 May.

“There was so much eagerness after the second lockdown to really rally for New York and to work together in this,” Dee says. Institutions large and small are contributing to the citywide program, too, with screenings, panels and openings. The Museum of Modern Art, for example, screens Jennifer Bolande’s 2018 film The Composition of Decomposition today (2 May) while Magenta Plains’s Independent stand will feature a “micro retrospective” of the New York-based artist’s work, including her Porn and Smoke Screen series. And those intrigued by Walter Pfeiffer’s intimate photographs of youth at the Parisian gallery Sultana’s Independent stand should make their way to the Swiss queer photography pioneer’s first US survey at the Swiss Institute.

Geta Brătescu, Lady Oliver in Traveling Costume, 1980-2012 Courtesy of The Estate of Geta Brătescu , Ivan Gallery, and Independent New York

Dee underlines the growing number of young galleries representing artists of older generations. “When Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi joined the first Independent with a Carol Rama show, she was the fair’s only historical artist and MoMA had immediately bought a piece,” she says. Now, the trend has become tradition. Bucharest’s Ivan Gallery has dedicated its stand to two icons of the 20th century Romanian avant-garde, Geta Brătescu and Ion Grigorescu. Miami-based gallery Nina Johnson exhibits energetic black-and-white photographs of Harlem by Martine Barrat, who had her breakthrough in the late 1970s. Amid what she describes as an “overheated market” for younger emerging artists, which can lead to overpricing, Dee says “the pendulum is about to swing to the other direction”, toward an interest in off-the-radar artists from previous generations.

The early May weather should be ideal to trek to the bank of the East River on the Lower East Side, where Nada New York’s eighth edition features exhibitors from as far afield as Tokyo, Istanbul and Frankfurt. The artists on view are similarly wide-ranging, including the Atlanta-based painter Stephen Thorpe at Denny Dimin Gallery’s stand; Rome-based Auriea Harvey, whose augmented reality work The Mystery v5-dv2 (chroma screen) (2021) pays homage to memento mori iconography in the bitforms stand; and a group of children showcasing their works in the Children’s Museum of the Arts stand. In addition to its ongoing solo show Emilie Louise Gossiaux’s gentle earthenware ceramics and ballpoint and crayon drawings at its Tribeca space, Mother will feature more works by the New York-based blind artist in its Nada stand, alongside pieces by Jenny Morgan, Anders Hamilton and Marcy Hermansader. And another Tribeca gallery, JDJ, similarly gives platform to its ongoing solo show of works by Bea Scaccia, matching her otherworldly paintings with works by Heather Guertin and Sharon Madanes at its Nada stand.

Auriea Harvey, The Mystery v5-dv2 (chroma screen), 2021 Courtesy bitforms gallery

Uptown elegance suits the flamboyant Dutch import Tefaf, which returns to the Park Avenue Armory’s ornate Drill Hall for the first time since its autumn 2019 edition. After the two-year pandemic pause, the fair opens with 91 exhibitors in art and design such as Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Tina Kim Gallery, Thaddaeus Ropac and Galleria Continua. Tefaf chairman Hidde van Seggelensays the fair is committed to creating “an immersive and profound art experience with museum-quality material and world-class dealers”. From the wood maestro Wendell Castle’s sleek stained cherry Flow Desk (2019) on Friedman Benda’s stand to a late-19th-century wood and copper royal African mask exhibited by Galerie Bernard Dulon, the fair offers an expansive catalogue for collectors.

Wendell Castle, Flow Desk, 2009 Courtesy Friedman Benda

And in Chelsea, Future Fair takes over 22,000 sq. ft on the north side of the city’s still-dominant gallery district (despite many decamping to Tribeca). The fair’s sophomore iteration doubles the number of exhibitors from its inaugural edition in 2021, with 50 participants this time and an emphasis on galleries owned by women and people of colour. The painting-heavy presentations include portraits by Samira Abbassy and Alli Olu with Martha’s Vineyard gallery Nyama Fine Art and bright-coloured cartoonish figures by Iranian painter Reihaneh Hosseini on online art platform newcube’s stand. Upstate New York’s Elijah Wheat Showroom is showing handwoven poetic textiles in cotton and wool by Hope Wang. Design finds its way into the aisles as well, such as Chen Chen and Kai Williams’s cast iron and silicone bronze chair with New York’s Emma Scully Gallery or Detroit-based Aleiya Olu’s debut solid oak frame chairs with her studio From Us To You.

Reihaneh Hosseini, What Happens When We Sleep, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and newcube, New York.

“We don’t take for granted that the audience knows a lot,” says Dee about Independent, and New York Art Week extends this vision to a mosaic of programming across three boroughs. The initiative’s interactive map is an ideal way to zigzag through the city. After catching Jill Magid’s site-specific Creative Time commission Tender Presence at the Dime Savings Bank in Williamsburg, perhaps hop on a ferry or train for a fair marathon, go catch Argentinian artist Fernanda Laguna’s whimsical show at he Drawing Center or visit any other of the nearly two dozen events making up this inaugural citywide art smorgasbord.