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Art Fairs Are Returning to NYC

NICOLE MCNULTY: This week, Frieze New York launched it’s annual art fair in Manhattan. They’re one of the world’s largest art fairs. Last year, they were forced to cancel their annual show due to COVID. But with infection rates lowering in the city, they’re one of the many art fairs returning this season. Fei Lu reports on how art fairs are returning and adapting a very in-person experience into a pandemic-friendly event.

FEI LU: Art fairs are places for artists, buyers, sellers, and fans to see art in-person. They’re usually extremely busy events with a lot of person-to-person contact. But this is not like other years.

RYAN STANIER: I think our biggest challenge is how do we recreate that same atmosphere, given the new challenges that we're facing?

LU: Ryan Stanier is the founder of The Other Art Fair, a fair that features artists who don't have an exclusive agreement with a gallery.

STANIER: It doesn't mean that we have to stop doing anything, it just means that we have to do things slightly differently.

LU: New York City regularly hosts two of the world’s largest art fairs: Frieze New York and the Armory show. They’re amongst the 20 to 40 fairs that happen annually here, making NYC the largest art market in America. Curations range from the Old Masters like Vermeer and Da Vinci, modern art and contemporary art, and emerging artists. Art ranges from a few hundred dollars to the listing price of a Park Avenue apartment.

For high end art fairs that showcase international artists, travel restrictions might force organizers to get creative with their curatorial decisions. Alessandro Berni is the founder of Clio Art Fair.

ALESSANDRO BERNI: So we are planning to select more American artists, or international artists already based in the United States.

LU: Clio Art Fair regularly features international artists from all continents including Asia, South America, and Africa. But that might change for 2021.

BERNI: Because we don't know, what would be the situation in terms of travel planned flights between the country and another.

LU: A large challenge art fairs will face is how COVID-19 centered no-touch policies will affect art that’s designed for attendee interaction. James Miille, co-founder of Superfine, an art fair that also features independent artists, says interactive art is not common at their events but does appear. One piece by Puerto Rican Artist, Sebastian Gutierrez is a kind of multi-layered portrait of a figure, made of different colored fabrics and textiles….

JAMES MIILLE: And then underneath it was almost like, this skeleton with, you know, some like muscular features to it. And like muscle fibers and everything. And there were holes in the front. So were like the, the faces eyes were and the mouth you could actually like touch and stretch, and you would be able to see kind of almost like this skeleton of a person underneath.

LU: James says that for this year’s events, precautions will definitely be taken.

MIILLE: I think, just pretty much like everything else that's going on, you know, frequent sanitizing and making some adjustments for this year just based on, you know, not having so much touchy feely art [laugh].

LU: Ryan Stanier, founder of The Other Art Fair, says artists are also responding to the pandemic, and to the challenges in exhibition as the fairs re-open.

STANIER: This is what an artist is going to face when they're in their studio thinking about concepts of work, then, of course, this is their challenge.

LU: And, he says, the artists’ choices will also impact The Other Art Fair’s curatorial decisions.

STANIER: I'm expecting, you know, when we start looking going in studios and talking to artists, again, and these sort of interactive pieces, which artists would have been creating historically, it'll be interesting to see what their response is, you know, and the and these responses will then be shown each of the fairs.

LU: Alessandro Berni, founder of Clio, says he’s not worried about the no-touch guidelines being an obstacle.

BERNI: After more than one year of pandemic. people are prepared. Everyone's dressed in a mask, the hand sanitizer, and so we will do whatever is necessary. But for our point of view it is pretty easy to respect the rules requested by New York State.

LU: But beyond business opportunities, art fairs in 2021 provide opportunities for art lovers to physically interact with a community they were removed from during the pandemic. James Miille, co-founder of Superfine, says it’s the connection between artists and attendees that makes art fairs so special.

MIILLE: I know that, you know, people who love art are excited to see it in person, again, over 75% of visitors to Superfine, say that their favorite aspect of the fairs is meeting the artists in person. I would say that the interaction between people, even more so than just being able to sell your art in person is really the reason that we're coming back and why art fairs in general are.

LU: Art is a fundamental part of New York City’s identity, and for many New Yorkers, the return of art fairs is a first step towards a return to normalcy. And just like how New Yorkers can adapt to anything, art fairs will find ways to function as well. Visit Uptown for the respective dates for Clio Art Fair, Superfine, and The Other Art Fair.

Fei Lu, Columbia Radio News.


The Other Art Fair, New York

July 22 - 25, 2021


Superfine, New York

Sept. 23 - 26, 2021, (Wo)man

Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2021, Myth

Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2021, Magick

Clio Art Fair, New York

Sept. 9 - 12, 2021


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