For those unfamiliar with the non profit, a description lifted directly from the Art Dealers Association of America website describes the organization, “Founded in 1962, the ADAA seeks to promote the highest standards of connoisseurship, scholarship and ethical practice within the profession.” Indeed, no small amount of prestige is associated with membership — Marian Goodman, Galerie Lelong, Mitchell-Innis & Nash — these are some of the biggest names in the industry. Of course, the list does tend to be New York centric, Hamilton-Selway for example, a reputable west coast gallery and one of the biggest Warhol dealers in the country, doesn’t appear on their membership list. Regionalism can not however account for Gagosian‘s absence in this organization, a position that at this point simply can’t be neutral given the gallery’s size and stature.
Naturally, this background isn’t necessary for coverage of their art fair, but as you can imagine, all the kinds of disputes and privileges that occur with the selective membership procedures I’ve outlined above in turn help establish the character of the fair. Understanding the exclusivity of membership, certainly helps explain why the fair is very important to many dealers when it no longer solicits the kind of attention the Armory attracts. Simply put, it is an opportunity for dealers to showcase their program amongst those whom they undoubtedly hold in the highest esteem. Serious collectors will in turn also respond to this kind of selection process.
Much like Art Basel, the fair is composed of a diverse range of dealers, second and primary market galleries exhibiting under the same roof. Given that the concerns of these two kinds of dealers are likely to be quite different, it occurred to me that it might have effected this year’s split scheduling between the Armory and the ADAA. In other words, do the secondary market galleries of the ADAA benefit from having large crowds and primary market collectors running through their fair? How well can a fair with an eclectic mix of dealers and little supplemental programming compete with the Armory in the first place? Is the name of the organization alone enough to draw collectors of all kinds to their fair? In the hopes of answering some of these questions I asked the ADAA PR firm, FITZ and Co. why the scheduling had been changed this year, though their response was predictably neutral, “last year was the first time the fairs matched up,” one woman told me, “it couldn’t be replicated again this year due to pier availability”. You’d think last year’s concurrently running fairs were a fluke based on this answer, as was this year’s change in schedule. Of course, just last year the new ADAA president Roland Augustine enthusiastically spoke to Art Fairs International, on this same subject saying, “I'm a great believer in synergistic relationships. We view this as a complementary initiative for both organizations' long term goals.” Given this statement, you’d have to be pretty naive to think that the fairs are completely at the mercy of somebody else’s calendar management, helplessly ending up at different times in the year. They do after all pay for the space they rent.
As for the fair itself, supplemental contemporary programming was added this year to encourage primary market collectors to visit the armory such as an EAI video installation selected by the first year students of the Center for Curatorial Studies. Artists included Peggy Ahwesh, Cecelia Condit, Lynda Benglis, Joan Jonas, Takeshi Murata, Michael Smith, Paper Rad, (props to them for making it uptown) and many more. I didn’t notice that the event was over run with people for the inclusion of a hip young collective – the fair did seem busier last year year with the influx of visitors from the Armory – though sales were strong in several of the galleries I visited. For discussion about the art itself however, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next post.