Temporary Contemporary

Left: MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, Michael Stipe, David Selig, and Volkswagen's Benita von Maltzahn. Right: The VW Dome 2. (Photos: Allese Thomson)

“NEW YORK IS NOT BACK TO NORMAL!” Klaus Biesenbach proclaimed. He was standing at the front of a bus filled with curators and journalists making its way down Cross Bay Boulevard through a raging snowstorm last Friday. Destination: the Rockaways, where Biesenbach was inaugurating VW Dome 2, a geodesic structure that will serve as a community center/public programs hub over the next several months. The bus turned into a parking lot, and a pristine white dome—eerily futuristic against the ravaged boardwalk—and fleet of Volkswagens came into sight. This dome bears some resemblance to the first VW Dome, a smart performance and event facility currently installed in the MoMA PS1 courtyard, though this second venue is marked by large windows that provide epic views of the destroyed beach. We stood shivering and buoyant in the bright, unheated space as the ceremony unfolded, until Biesenbach corralled the audience and led us for a walk on the niveous sand so we could “take it all in.”

“This is his present to us,” a wayward surfer told me as we shielded our eyes from the snow and listened to Biesenbach insist that “the international press must take note—the trains are still not running!”

“It’s like he’s running for mayor of New York.”

Left: Dealers Simone Subal and Gigiotto Del Vecchio of Supportico Lopez. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky) Right: Dealers  Stuart Shave and Joe Sheftel with critic Jerry Saltz. (Photo: Allese Thomson)

All this made for a bizarre, perhaps poignant intermission in Armory Week, a period still flush with fairs, openings, obligations, soirees, interminglings. On Saturday alone, for instance, you might have caught a Thomas Zipp performance at Harris Lieberman, where women in masks and tall black boots descended on the gallery for a dark, Sartre-inspired musical set. Or attended White Columns’ opening for Sverre Bjertnes (curated by Bjarne Melgaard) and a lively afterparty at the Wooly. Or tried (in vain) to split your time between Rashaad Newsome’s extravagant “Style Ball” at Westway and MoMA PS1’s late-night escapade that encouraged attendees to rage within the museum itself. Business as usual in New York.

That lineup might pale against any given night of, say, Art Basel Miami Beach, but it’s still more than enough to keep a person busy (scratch that—exhausted!). All this and the fairs too—from Scope to Volta and the “curator-driven” Spring Break Art Show to the tonier Armory and ADAA. And of course the Independent—a fair created by galleries for galleries (as the Armory was), an event distinguished by a measure of exclusivity (one must be invited to participate) but also the most “democratic” of Armory Week (it is the only fair that’s free to all comers).

“Welcome to the sexiest booth in the fair,” a dealer said, swaggering out of Gavin Brown’s large section on the Independent’s fourth floor, featuring wallpaper by Thomas Bayrle depicting couples in coital positions. Nearby, fair cofounder Darren Flook stood amid elegant copper sculptures by Michel François that twisted and turned into the air and out across the aisle. A series of pedestals with racks precariously stacked with dishes ran in a neat line nearby. “The fair is about curation in the loosest possible way,” said Flook. He and Elizabeth Dee cooked up the idea for Independent at a bar several years ago. “New York is a brilliant city and it did not have a brilliant fair,” he said. Bright winter sunshine spilled through the windows, lighting up the sculptures—the space was so open that it was difficult to distinguish which artist belonged to which gallery (François to Bortolami, Nicole Wermers’s dish racks to Herald St).

Left: Independent cofounders Darren Flook and Elizabeth Dee. (Photo: Allese Thomson) Right: Dealers Toby Webster and Andrew Hamilton. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

Use of sight lines and unconventional formations is one of the keys to Independent’s success, and for the 2013 edition, architect Christian Wassmann constructed thick walls in Y-like configurations, cordoning off areas for each gallery and again sidestepping the usual cubicle-like fair structure. Each “booth” created common spaces that forced galleries into visual (and social) dialogue with the other. It was easy to lose hours there.

“This fair puts a lot of responsibility on the viewer,” said Aspen Art Museum curator Jacob Proctor. “It’s ironic that it’s the only free fair, but it also has some of the most difficult work.” Stuart Shave Modern Art was (again) the subject of much laudation. (Rumor has it that Oscar Murillo, who the gallery featured last year, sold some four hundred works within a week of his Independent debut.) Shave, whose space was only distinguishable by the title of his gallery printed lightly over one windowpane, presented four tables featuring slabs of dried, unfired clay. The artist, Anna-Bella Papp, a young Transylvanian sculptor (and partner of Victor Man) who has thus far only exhibited in group shows, cut delicate, simple shapes into each, making salient the vulnerability of clay as a medium.

Across the way, the Approach hung sculptures by Jack Lavender. Constellations of chains, circles, and enormous swaths of fabric dangled from the ceiling—a forest of bric-a-brac that opened onto Papp’s understated works. “I love that these are hanging in front of Stuart’s modernist display,” the gallery’s Jake Miller said, gazing at the tables. “It really accentuates them, don’t you think?”

Left: Collector Beth Rudin DeWoody with artists Jon Kessler and Marilyn Minter. (Photo: Allese Thomson) Right: Dealer Andrew Kreps. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

The fair’s preview was greeted by a crowd that had been happily celebrating art since Sunday night, when Lower East Side galleries welcomed early trickles of the global throng. (The electric slide was the dance of choice at the afterparty cohosted by Reena Spaulings and JTT Gallery at La Caverna, and Untitled took over the basement of Bacaro for its exuberant dinner.) Or at least Monday night, when Jon Kessler opened “The Web” at Swiss Institute, a massive exhibition that resembled a DIY version of the CES trade show, and Sylvie Fleury her “It Might as Well Rain Until September” at Salon 94 Bowery, both of which were feted at an elegant meal upstairs at Miss Lily’s. Down the road, Simone Subal threw a dinner for the Georgian artist Anna K. E., and Subal cooked the food herself, setting up long tables in the gallery that were peppered with giant loaves of bread. Butcher knives were passed around so each could cut their own.

The rest of the week flew past as the race toward spring began. Saturday brought dapples of sun and everyone seemed to descend on Chelsea. A line for the Independent snaked around the block, and Wassmann was finally able to erect his own community center—a large, geometric “Tetravilion”—on the roof of the former Dia building. (Intense wind had prevented its use before.) Up there, Wassmann’s busy popup recalled those other temporary domes in the city. (Fuller would be proud!) As one artist put it at Suzanne Geiss’s soigné dinner for Mary Beth Edelson at Edi & the Wolf on Friday night, “Armory Week is really just a series of popups that give way to other popups.” Precarious these structures may be, but in a city as fast as New York, popups might as well be monuments.

Left: La Clique's Tolga Albayrak. (Photo: Allese Thomson) Right: Dealers Lucy Chadwick and Gavin Brown. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Dealers Federico Vavassori and Alexander Hertling. Right: Dealer Zach Feuer. (Photos: Allese Thomson)

Left: Dealers Ash L'Ange and Nicky Verber of Herald St. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky) Right: Dealer Suzanne Geiss (right). (Photo: Allese Thomson)

Left: Dealer Maureen Paley. Right: Dealers Jake Miller and Emma Robertson of The Approach. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: White Columns' Matthew Higgs and Amie Scally. Right: Dealers Christian Nagel and Saskia Draxler. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: LA MoCA's Emma Reeves with curator Neville Wakefield and artist Olympia Scarry. (Photo: Frank Expósito) Right: Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. (Photo: Allese Thomson)

Left: Dealers Francesca Kaufmann (center) and Chiara Repetto (right). Right: MoCA North Miami director and chief curator Bonnie Clearwater with MoCA North Miami curator Alex Gartenfeld. (Photos: Frank Expósito)

Left: SculptureCenter curator Ruba Katrib and SculptureCenter director Mary Ceruti. (Photo: Frank Expósito) Right: Artist Lia Lowenthal with dealer Richard Telles. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Dealers Jocelyn Wolff, Nasim Weiler, and Sandrine Djerouet. Right: Robert McKenzie and Ethan Wagner of Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Rachel Peddersen, curatorial fellow at The Kitchen. Right: Mark Dickenson of Neue Alte Brücke and Gió Marconi. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)