Which Art Fair Will End This Tournament of Pain?

by Corinna Kirsch and Whitney Kimball on April 27, 2012 · 4 comments Art Fair

It’s art fair season. Again. Whoop-de-fucking-doo.

This non-stop barrage of art fairs and satellite fairs and online fairs and innovative, alternative fairs has been fun and all, but let's face it: we don’t enjoy spending four months out of the year writing these previews, and we suspect that galleries don’t enjoy schlepping their shit back and forth around the globe month after month. It's only a matter of time before a few winners are announced, and we can give our art-legs a break; so we've decided to help settle this thing. Time for the art fair royal rumble. This May, which fair will unleash the most ravaging can of whoop-ass ever seen?

Frieze, New York

Frieze has positioned itself on Randall's Island, taking advantage of the natural defenses offered by the East River.

Frieze New York

Fri., May 4th— Mon.,  May 7th.
Friday & Saturday 12 — 7 PM.
Sunday & Monday 12 — 6 PM.
Randall's Island
Admission: $15 — $40

Most fights, on the streets or in the squared circle, are ultimately decided on tent size. It should be obvious why we think Frieze New York is the strongest contender this city has seen in years.

Frieze has already sucked some of the satellite fairs into its orbit, convincing Pulse and Verge to give up their Armory Week slots—and NADA and Seven to move up from Miami—in only its first year. Why? Because these fairs are jackals, come to feast on whatever putrid remainder of New York’s art world Frieze deigns to leave behind.

Exhibit one? The sculpture park, curated by Bard’s executive director of curatorial studies, Tom Eccles. BLAMMO. Bulwarks like Louise Bourgeois, Christoph Büchel, and Cerith Wyn Evans will dominate the sculpture park, along with eight commissions by younger artists including Virginia Overton, Latifah Echakhch, and Tim Rollins and K.O.S.. In the gallerydome, most of the heavyweights will be in attendance, including champs like Tanya B, Metro Pictures, current tag team champions Mitchell-Innes and Nash, Zwirner, and Gagosian (in a rare hometown appearance).

Plus, arm yourself for an OWS smack-down; on May 4th, a panel with MOMA Director Glenn Lowry, Whitney Director Adam Weinberg, and Tate Modern Chief Curator Sheena Wagstaff will discuss the future of museums' impact on culture. Another talk and film screening is titled “Art Isn't Fair: Collecting for the 99%.” BLAMMO. Buckle your seatbelts, New York. The Frieze is about to unleash an absolute shitstorm of panels and artist commissions on your ass.

Verdict: A mighty six-pack of whoop-ass.

Artist's rendition, VERGE NYC.

Artist’s rendition, VERGE NYC.


Thursday, May 3rd – Sunday, May 6th.
Opening reception: Thursday, May 3rd, 6 – 10 PM
Friday and Saturday, 12 – 8 PM. Sunday, 12 – 6 PM.
159 Bleecker Street
Admission: $10 – $15

Verge has already delivered itself one too many fatal dropkicks to the nuts. Does that make sense? No. BLAMMO. But neither does Verge, the fair that can’t help but fail. After a few painful organizational gaffes right from the bell, the fair has held on with a handful of exhibitors (11, this year), relying annually on new recruits. In its latest attempt to stay relevant, it's moved from its Brooklyn space into the Brucennial building on Bleecker Street. Will the power ghosts of 159 Bleecker Street instill every tenant with their mystic abilities? No. This fair is screwed.

Verdict: Zero cans of whoop-ass.

The old Dia building.

The old Dia building.


Friday, May 4th — Monday,  May 7th. Friday 2 PM to 8 PM. Saturday 11 AM to 8 PM. Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM. Monday 11 AM to 4 PM.
Center 548 (The old Dia building)
548 West 22nd Street
Admission: Free

Last week, NADA conquered Germany with its first European fair, NADA Cologne. NADA crushed its competition abroad, but now, back on its home turf, NADA has about 5 seconds to rest before getting back in the ring with its first New York City-based fair. Their debut will be big—four stories big. NADA will take over the Dia building in Chelsea, where the fair's 67 exhibitors will inhabit four floors (three floors for exhibitors and one for a lounge), the roof, and, so we hear, the stairwells. Leave your fear of heights at home, or else you won't be able to survive NADA NYC's vertical challenge and open-air assault. BLAMMO. 

NADA's bulked up its defense by recruiting 19 new, international exhibitors for this year's fair, which is just fucked up; they already had some of the best exhibitors around, and this is getting unreasonable. With their strong team, we predict NADA and its four-story art fortress will emit such great force that the other fairs will cower in submission. Except Frieze.

NADA gets to fight over that six-pack of whoop-ass with Frieze. Frieze may have the largest art tent ever, but c'mon, who cares about tents?

Verdict: Six-pack of whoop-ass, but no tent.


Saturday, April 28 — Sunday, May 20, 2012
Opening reception: Friday, May 4th, 6 — 9 PM
April 28, 12-8 PM; April 29, 12 – 6 PM; May 1-3rd, 12-8 PM; May 4, 12 – 9 PM; May 5-6th, 12 -8 PM; May 10-13th; May 17 – 20th, 12-6 PM
The Boiler
191 N. 14th St. Brooklyn
Admission: Free

Seven may be small, but it demolishes old art fair models. How? By feeling more like an exhibition, or maybe a family, or—because I have a theme to get back to—maybe a family that’s really violent. Seven galleries—six from New York, one from London—all roll up into one pile-driving wrecking ball, with no booths and no rules. Its first New York exhibition will turn up the heat in Williamsburg’s The Boiler, as sumi ink drawings by Dawn Clements, knit sculptures by Gil Yefman (BLAMMO), and Diana Cooper’s hybridized constructions swing in from behind and quietly torpedo your dome. They’ll be open for a month, they’re in Brooklyn, and it’s all solo exhibitions; I don’t know what more you want.

Verdict: Three (big) cans of A-grade whoop-ass; also the fair most likely to actually exhibit a can of whoop-ass.

The power and majesty of PULSE.

The power and majesty of PULSE.


Thursday, May 3rd — Sunday, May 6th. Thursday and Saturday 12 — 8 PM; Friday 10 AM — 8 PM; Sunday 12pm-5pm.
The Metropolitan Pavilion
125 West 18th Street
Admission: $12 — $25

This May, PULSE NYC gets a shoulder off the mat. Again. By ancient tradition, we will again return to the corner, watch it struggle to its feet, and then dive back in like we don’t know what’s going to happen.

PULSE is PULSE. It has figurative painting, technically proficient photography, and loads of inoffensive art furnishings. There will be at least five works based around somebody accumulating a bunch of something, and at least three based around someone spending an inordinate amount of time at the beach.

In that weight class, though, PULSE always lands a few punches. Their warm, wood-floored space always looks inviting, and the people are friendly. BLAMMO.

PULSE has been training in the offseason, too.It’s moved from March to May (that’s worth it just so people stop confusing them with SCOPE), it’s reduced the number of exhibitors, and it’s brought in Queens-based Babycastles to curate its video art lounge.

Even with these changes, we're not sure if PULSE understands the full meaning of opening a can of whoop-ass. It’s not really their style. In light of that, since we’re sensitive people, we’ll give PULSE something a little more restrained.

Verdict: Four jugs of detergent.


barn April 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm

rasslin’ makes everything better… rawesome

HHalle May 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm

In the post-apocalypse art, there will be maybe 2 or 3 galleries left, and maybe a total of 50 or so artists, curators, dealers and collectors who’ll pay for the work with clamshells. And everyone will hate each other.

a weary dealer May 3, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Maybe if the collectors would get off their asses and come around to the galleries we would not be forced to schlep around the world doing these fairs

Zipthwung May 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm

From the smell of sewage at Frieze to the filler Motel art at Verge (I did see a Wesley Willis and some other stuff) I was sort of meh. Hopefully the forces of art are just mustering and this is the calm before the proverbial or figurative/literal shit storm. Really.

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