NADA opened to feverish crowds Thursday morning, dealers say. “It's cliche word to use,” Michael Gillespie of Foxy Production told us, “but they really were frenzied”. Gillespie described an opening in which both he and his partner John Thomson were pulled by four or more collectors at a time wanting to purchase work. Only one large painting by young artist Gabriel Hartley remains, along with a few unhung smaller works.
Foxy's was not the only report like this. One dealer we spoke to said she'd sold so much work at once that she lost track of who bought which editions. “And these are serious collectors” she told us, fretting over how to navigate the politics of explaining to a customer that she did not know what they had bought. Another gallerist told us she'd had two cups of coffee and two cigarettes for the day, though she neither smoke nor drank coffee. She looked exhausted.
Yesterday's gains on the stock market certainly helped propel sales, but so too did the strong show. While Basel's Art Nova section looked depleted this year, NADA couldn't be more plush with new art and dealers. As we reported yesterday, NADA picked up many of the strong dealers who once showed in Art Nova, including CANADA, Nicole Klagsbrun, and Foxy Production. Each had previously shown at NADA.
While each dealer undoubtedly has a different rationale for why they left the fair, Canada Dealer Phil Grauer simply cited the fair's former location as a problem. “There was no network or sense of camaraderie at the Ice Palace.” The fair left that location in 2009 for their current digs at the Deauville Hotel. Since coming to the fair's new location, we've consistently noted the friendly atmosphere and collaborative vibe.
This atmosphere is particularly important to dealers coming from outside the United States, who may not know many of the collectors coming to the fairs and thus rely on introductions. Strong communities create an environment where dealers will more frequently reach out to their neighbors and make these connections for those who need them.
“But you didn't really come here for the community, did you?” I asked Grauer, who conceded that for many, the price for Basel booths can outweigh the gains of the few additional corporate advisers Art Basel brings in. Even the small Nova booths at Basel Miami can cost more than twice those at NADA. NADA participants maintain that there's just as much opportunity at their fair as at the convention center.
“Collectors can’t afford not to come to this fair,” Thomson explained, though Gillespie added that “[Hartley] was the right project for this fair” Given the artist’s youth – he’s only thirty – the gallery considered the exhibition a greater risk for the more conservative Basel attendees.
Hartley's large pieces sold for $12,500 a piece, a relatively small sum relative to the works that sell at Basel. That the work is affordable, though, is not what draws collectors, says Grauer: “There's expensive work here and I think there could be more”. One such example is MKG127’s “Black Klan” a lifesize sculpture by Dean Drever which lists at $127,500.
The dealers we spoke to credited NADA board member and dealer Jack Hanley for attracting many of the fairs new participants, and generally infusing the fair with a little more life. “If the art world works as it should and rewards quality and talent, the dealers and artists in this fair will be the next big stars,” one dealer concluded. It’s worth mentioning that the art world also rewards ambition, an attribute the participants of this fair wore in full view.