NEW YORK (March 10, 2014). Over 20,000 attendees to VOLTA NY's seventh edition and second year in SoHo reconfirmed the fair's mission as a place of compelling contemporary discoveries within deeply insightful solo statements.
"A solo project is a formidable risk for galleries at an art fair, even more so when the artist is almost unknown or the presentation is an entirely new or complex body of work. For that reason, I have to really give props to the galleries this year for going balls out and taking major risks with an air of confidence that is absolutely staggering," said Amanda Coulson, VOLTA's Artistic Director.
VOLTA Artistic Director Amanda Coulson and Luis de Jesus (director of LUIS DE JESUS, Los Angeles) buss cheeks during the Thursday preview
Photo by: David Willems, click on the image for full size
Indeed, confidence ruled the weekend, with galleries reaping the rewards of presenting brand-new -- and sometimes challengingly new -- bodies of work. This narrative was apparent for LUIS DE JESUS (Los Angeles), who returned to the New York fair after a year's absence with brilliant returns. The gallery's 2012 project with Zackary Drucker preceded the California performance artist and filmmaker's critically-acclaimed participation at this year's Whitney Biennial. At VOLTA NY, the gallery unveiled a significant new array of Margie Livingston's paint-object works, selling to a international clientele with a wait-list for further works. "We sold to a client who had been following her career and went for the new work," said Jay Wingate.
Gallery assistant Rebecca Cuomo, manager Gavin Runzel, and director Lauren Licata lounge among artist Thrush Holmes' site specific booth installation of new paintings at Mike Weiss Gallery (New York).
Photo by: David Willems, click on the image for full size
Other works by Livingston and booth artist Chris Barnard went to all new collectors from New York, Canada, and Switzerland, plus the dealers spent time with an adviser sent by MoMA's Young Collectors group.Mike Weiss Gallery (New York) went full-throttle in their installation especially conceived for the fair by young Toronto provocateur Thrush Holmes, unveiling an entirely new body of powdery-minimal canvases accented by neon slashes in cryptic hieroglyphics and universal insignia. By early afternoon Sunday, the gallery had moved a dozen of Holmes' paintings, each outfitted with fire extinguisher bases, at a range of $15,000 - $25,000 each to all new collectors. Down the corridor at Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin), the gallery clocked $25,000 in sales to collectors excited about young Romanian artistLeonardo Silaghi's "New York City restart" into full abstraction. "These are something that haven't existed before, so people are coming to see it," said dealer Giovanni De Sanctis. First-time exhibitor Shin Gallery (New York) soldHyon Gyon's newest work Provocateur II for $25,000 to a private New York collector. It was the young artist's first attempt at combining visceral paint with her eye-catching, impasto-like melted fabric media. Gallerist Hong-gyu Shin also noted strong interest from New York collectors in Hyon Gyon's massive triptych painting.
There was a wellspring of discovery with projects by Africans, African-Americans, and artists of African descent at the fair. Beyond Wilmer Wilson IV's reprisal of his grueling durational performance From My Paper Bag Colored Heart to fair visitors on Saturday, his gallery CONNERSMITH. (Washington D.C.) registered strong sales for both documentation of Wilson's work and for booth artist Zoë Charlton's new suite of gouache and collaged works to international museums and private collectors. "Zoë's a role model and a leader in Baltimore and nationally for young artists," said gallery co-owner Jamie Smith. Nearby at NOMAD (Brussels), dealer Walter De Weerdt recalled a weekend reinstallation of Brooklyn-based Rwandan artist Duhirwe Rushemeza's vibrantly patterned acrylic and concrete reliefs, after selling the major installation work Imigongo #1 (Blue, White, Taupe, Ochre, and Brown) to a renowned collector from Israel, plus other works priced from $7,500 to over $12,500 and three more on hold to a German collector. "We've experienced great support from the African-American community," said De Weerdt, "and it is great to receive this kind of support." Rushemeza echoed her admiration of the fair, both in the friends she saw and new people she met. "It definitely provided me a different kind of exposure." Jack Bell (of his namesake London gallery) commented that, "It worked well to bring an artist who spoke the 'local language'," on exhibited artist Cullen Washington Jr, "people were familiar with his older work and were intrigued by his new body of it at VOLTA." The gallery sold abstract compositions from small-scale to massive at $5,000 - $13,000 range, and Bell added they were already thinking about projects for next year. "The weekend was very busy, from the stroller and family crowd to curatorial groups, and we had excellent conversations with everyone," enthused dealer Guido Maus (beta pictoris gallery, Birmingham AL), on his two-decade survey of seminal multidisciplinary artist Willie Cole. The gallery placed much of the booth, with works on hold to major institutions, plus Maus made many new southern stateside and European contacts. "What can I say?! I'm ecstatic... and exhausted!" John Cox, exhibiting artist with and founder of Popopstudios (Nassau) commented that, "Reaction has been extremely good and the exposure is crazy. I've been talking to people nonstop, so I'm exhausted in a good way." He pointed to encouragement about his 'everyday assemblage' oeuvre, in the gallery itself and its location in The Bahamas, and what is going on in the greater Caribbean in general. "Sales are good, but they aren't a huge part of our agenda at VOLTA. For the first few years, we're like the new kid in school, establishing our presence."
Guido Maus (right-center: director of beta pictoris gallery, Birmingham AL) holds court in a busy mini-retrospective booth for artist Willie Cole, photo by: David Willems, click on the image for full size
The positive climate of serious visitors resonated with first-timers and returning galleries. Carol Sun of Identity Art Gallery (Hong Kong) was encouraged by the week. "My experience was 100 percent positive," she said, about her debut presence at VOLTA NY and in her Japanese artist Atsushi Tawa's mix of classical and ultra-modernist works. "People asked lots of good questions. They're curious about the artist and about the Hong Kong contemporary art scene." Second-time exhibitor FRED.GIAMPIETRO (New Haven, CT) sold six of Clare Grill's oil on linen paintings to a variety of clients, including a representative from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a repeat client the gallery met in their inaugural VOLTA NY project last year. Next door at Hamiltonian Gallery (Washington DC), dealer Amanda Jiron-Murphy noted interest on Will Schneider-White's figurative acrylic on hemp and linen compositions commenting, "People who have liked Will's work have been really sensitive - not sure if you'd get that same sense from just any art fair." She was very happy with the overall experience and the gallery's first time at the fair. "The second time has been as good as the first," lauded Robert Walden, co-owner of robert henry contemporary (Brooklyn). The gallery sold multiple meticulous gouache, watercolor, and/or ink works on paper by Robert Lansden ($1,650 - $10,000) over the course of the weekend. "Also, we ran out of catalogue pages - they're content-rich, not just a pretty package, plus they include a represented artists list, so this is VOLTA NY supporting our full gallery program...and that's unusual for an art fair."
Some exhibitors counted success over the entire run of the fair. Scaramouche (New York) noted heightening interest in New York-based artist Michael Bühler-Rose's cross-media oeuvre since opening day, moving three paintings from the artist's humorous series What the fuck and other questions (which utilize the word "fuck" in various phrases and colors to test the viewer's temperament) to different collectors, while a group of four photographs from the evocative portrait series Constructing the Exotic - featuring Western women in a traditional Hindu community - went to a private foundation in Florida, and two (of an edition of three) large-format portraits of The Chess Match to New York collectors. CES Contemporary sold one of Robert Larson's largest recycled packaging works on canvas ($10,000 approx.) to New York collectors, plus more large works on linen and several works on paper, including 10 works on paper during Friday alone. "It's been amazing on all levels," said the artist. "It's been significant. It's the start of a journey to a whole new place." CHARLIE SMITH LONDON (London) sold over half the booth and $14,000 approx. in total for Sam Jackson's petite-scale intense portraiture of underground London life. Works went to an international cast of collectors, including an art historian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a gallerist-collector from Colombia, with a potential exhibition offer there as well. Dealer Zavier Ellis commented on the constant, serious interest in Jackson's New York solo debut: "He's never had that many eyeballs anywhere else, really. It's great bringing someone so British, so London, with such an international response."
Other highlights throughout the fair period included longtime exhibitor HilgerBROTKunsthalle (Vienna), who noted intense interest in mid-career pop-culture maven Daniele Buetti's work, selling the multi-part perforated lightbox photograph I'm Too Old For This Shit ($41,000) and additional interest in Buetti's related works and other series. "His titles are getting more critical, but it's a reflection of our times," commented director Michael Kaufmann. "It's not all just about beauty." Beers Contemporary (London) moved nearly all of Pawel Sliwinski's U.S. solo debut presentation of expressive mid-size and large-scale figurative paintings, while Anna Maria Brunnhofer (of Brunnhofer Galerie, Linz) noted significant curatorial and institutional interest in Elisabeth Sonneck's site-specific rolled oil on paper works and the possibility for commissions. First-time exhibitor Maki Fine Arts (Tokyo) sold several of Shu Ikeda's incised photographic works on Saturday evening, including the large-scale landscape Fragile Relationship, all to new clients. In addition to selling a large, textured painting by young Brooklyn-based artist Julian Lorber to a prominent New York collector, director Mindy Solomon (of her namesake Miami gallery) fielded requests from art consultants and advisers for both Lorber and mid-career sculptor Dominique Labauvie in possible future commissions. Charlie James Gallery (Los Angeles) sold one of Bay Area-based Iranian artist Ala Ebtekar's paintings ($30,000) and a print ($8,000) to collectors from Dubai and New York City while meeting many good curators throughout the fair.
Kim Dorland's presentation of new works with Angell Gallery (Toronto)
Photo by: David Willems, click on the image for full size
"Within the first hour of the fair, we made our first sale at an accessible entry point, and now we're closing with sales at the top end," said director Lisa de Simone of C24 Gallery (New York) on young Brooklyn-based Swiss artist Katja Loher's cutting-edge video-sculpture works, counting sales ranging from nearly $6,000 to just under $15,000 apiece.
Nearby at TEZUKAYAMA GALLERY (Osaka), assistant director Chie Uchida was effusive over artist Satoru Tamura's large-scale North American debut. "This is the first time that we sold so many works in the first day of any art fair we've done, so we're really happy!" The gallery counted over $30,000 in emotive examples of Tamura's Machine and Point of Contact series to international institutions and collectors. Jamie Angell (director of his namesake Toronto gallery) found it "excellent to reconnect with clients familiar with Kim Dorland's earlier works," as the suite on view (particularly the dramatic salon-style installation curated by the critically acclaimed artist himself) was entirely new. The gallery had over $100,000 in sales before closing time.
The stunning number of visitors to VOLTA NY this year was reflected in the consistency of high-quality guests, many of whom returned more than once, including: Susan and Michael Hort (New York collectors, returning from the Thursday preview); Eric Shiner (Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh); Mera Rubell (co-founder of the Rubell Family Collection, New York); Knight Landesman (Publisher of Artforum International); Lowery Stokes Sims (Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York); Alan and Rebecca Ross (Chairwoman of Detroit Institute of the Arts); Bill Arning (Director of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston); Dr. Livia Straus (co-founder of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY); Serge Tiroche (Israel collector and co-founder of the Tiroche DeLeon Collection); Marty Margulies (Miami collector); Joel and Sherry Mallin (New York collectors); representatives from Diane von Furstenberg (New York-based fashion designer); Spike Jonze (prominent film director); plus many distinguished members of the press and other guests.
ARC Magazine's panel at VOLTA NY 2014, featuring (from left) Holly Bynoe, Ian Deleon, Joiri Minaya, Blake Daniels, Olivia McGilchrist, and Jayson Keeling, photo by: David Willems, click on the image for full size
Special projects at this year's edition provided further potential for creative immersion. Culture Shock's (Brooklyn) fourth project with the fair, ULTRA VOLTA: The Spectrum of Ultra Violet provided just that sort of sensorial environment around Ultra Violet's multidisciplinary career. According to programmer Monica LoCascio, "Everyone is very interested in the work, in the artist Ultra Violet, and in us as an agency. Our intersection of art and technology is unique" in the context of both an art fair and the greater arts scene. 2014 Columbia University School of the Arts MFA candidate Pamela Council's slow-strut around the fair in Sweet Grace (presented by Kianga Ellis Projects, New York) enchanted the Sunday crowd with her sendup to both charismatic original Bishop Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace and Council's own thoughts on soulful "Blaxidermy". Talks programming drew room-filling crowds and critical attention, from curator and UNTITLED Art Fair Artistic Director Omar Lopez-Chahoud's unmoderated roundtable On the Future of the Gallery (Exhibition), presented by 2014 Whitney Biennial participants Critical Practices Inc. (New York), whose co-founders and directors Saul Ostrow, Susan Bowman, and David Goodman joined artist-run podcast Bad At Sports (Chicago/New York) in a Bedside Chats interview prior to their discussion; and Caribbean arts journal ARC Magazine's reprisal presence at the fair, Metanoia - Practices of Exhaustion, moderated by Editor-in-Chief Holly Bynoe and Junior Editor/Curator Blake Daniels and featuring multidisciplinary pan-Caribbean artists Olivia McGilchrist, Jayson Keeling, Joiri Minaya, Ian Deleon, and VOLTA NY 2014 artist John Cox.
"After a few years where the art world seemed to be schlepping through the doldrums, it was good to feel the old VOLTA spirit being re-birthed: dealers were hyped, risk-taking and generous with one another, the visitors were engaged, enthusiastic and effusive," Coulson added. "Going into our decade anniversary in Basel, the celebratory tone has certainly been set."