The biggest story of the Dependent art fair Friday night was the crowds. Striking without warning – hotel staff were unaware of the fair until it was underway – art people swarmed over two floors of the Sheraton on West 25th Street in one of nature’s great displays of air-kissing. In terms of foot traffic it was almost too successful: the hotel rooms felt cramped even empty, and by 8PM it was difficult to move, much less see any art. Lighting and wall space were predictably problems, too.
Ultimately, the most memorable booths were those that found some graceful way to work around the setting. Ramiken Crucible was the only gallery to figure out they could prop the beds up against the wall, and the result was a room notably more spacious and inviting than the competition: Andra Ursuta’s T.Vladimirescu #5, An International Psychic Maneuver (2007), the diorama above, would’ve died sitting on a bed. Cleopatra’s used the hotel room to full effect, decking the bed out for an installation and having Alex Da Corte fill the bathroom with flowers. Similarly, RECESS gallery used their bathroom as the sealed-off setting for a hair-related performance by A.K. Burns and Katherine Hubbard, livestreamed onto the TV, while turning over their bed to host Kenya Robinson's “The Inflatable Mattress”, a performance piece in which the artist couchsurfs for thirteen weeks. As nauseating as the latter concept is, the use of the fair-hotel space was clever.
Despite the raging aesthetic battle between artworks and setting, the general quality of work was good. Certainly, it was competitive with larger fairs like the Independent and Pulse, and considering the size of the fair – sixteen galleries in all – I walked away with an impressive number of pieces I’d liked. New York Fine Arts was the clear standout for me, bringing works by AFC favorite Josh Kline (whose essay for our IMG MGMT series is one of my favorite pieces of recent writing), among others.
Other galleries bringing strong work included 2-UP and Reference, who turned their room into a stall of artist Reid Ramirez-branded swag. The latter was a fitting reaction to a not-quite-art-fair, and pricing everything under $20 was probably a smart move given the crowd – there were plenty of critics and artists packing the hallways, but by and large collectors didn’t look to be in attendance. To be fair, for most of the galleries showing this seems to have been a secondary concern; the $200 cost of a hotel room was a steal for the amount of attention they received, and for out-of-towners like Reference it doubled as accommodation. Despite the chaos and distraction, it’s difficult to see the Dependent as anything but a success.