Pulse: A Lean Affair

by Paddy Johnson on May 5, 2012 · 2 comments Art Fair

Let's get one thing straight: The art shown at Pulse is not our cup of tea. The galleries at this fair tend to specialize in boutique art, cluttered salon-style wall hangings, and cheeseball process-based work, and we're not fans of any of that stuff. That said, the fair has been showcasing this kind of work for years, so there's clearly a market for it even if the crowds haven’t been particularly heavy this weekend. Let’s hope their traffic picks up.

Why Should I Care?

Founded in 2005 by Helen Allen, Pulse has a longer history in the city than any of the other fairs in New York this weekend. The show's a little leaner than it has been, but still hosts galleries we think are worth a visit. Stronger booths this year include Hosfelt Gallery, Lawrimore Project, Meulensteen, Morgan Lehman, Jen Bekman Gallery and believe it or not, Mike Weiss (we still don't think you should buy from him though).

On the business end of things, Pulse’s performance can tell us a lot about the greater ecosystem of the fairs.  They’ve already lost galleries to the Armory, which itself continues to lose galleries not just to Frieze and NADA but to other international fairs. Foxy Production, for example, isn’t participating in any New York fairs this spring, opting instead to seek new collectors in Mexico. It might be a good move for Pulse to explore some new territory, and potentially new collectors, rather than continuing to position themselves in the shadow of the big fairs.

The Good

Boats are great and all, but let's be real. It's a lot easier to get to Pulse than it is to get to Frieze. It's also a lot cheaper. A single day pass costs 20 bucks—half as much as Frieze—and a four-day multipass is only 5 bucks more. A multipass isn't all that much of a deal for the average visitor, since the fair can be seen in an hour and a half, but some collectors may need to make several return visits before they decide on a work.

Best booth of the fair easily goes to Lawrimore Projects. Filling one half of the space with Jennie C. Jones's minimalist speakers and a 3 pin cable line plug with both ends embedded into the wall, and Isaac Layman's large scale composite photographs of crumpled paper, the quality of the work in this gallery almost looks a little out of place here.

Standout works in the show include a large-scale Kim Dorland Landscape at Mike Weiss, Anoka Faruqee's formulaic but visually compelling mosaic painting at Hosfelt Gallery, and Whitney Biennial artist Andrew Masullo's paintings at Daniel Weinberg Gallery.

The Bad

Where are the crowds? Multiple dealers at Pulse complained about the lack of traffic yesterday, with one gallerist boldly proclaiming he was doing “Reeeeally shitty!” when we asked. Not good.

Of course, art will be sold, but he was unhappy he wasn't meeting anyone new. “That's what these fairs are supposed to do,” he told us.

Certainly he wouldn't have been meeting any European collectors. None of the visitors we overheard even had an accent, which suggests a local crowd. Hopefully, the fair will see a little more traffic today, now that Frieze and NADA are on their second day.

Past all this, we weren't happy with how many gallerists handled their booths. Far too many spaces looked like the gallery had decided to bring in all their backstock and hang it. Daniel Weinberg Gallery was a great example of this, as their cluttered space took away from a lot of the museum-quality work they had on view. Amongst the mess they even had works by Ed Ruscha and Robert Smithson; a rarity at a fair normally light on secondary market blue chip work.

Photograph by Kristian Kozul at Pablo's Birthday

The Anecdotal

You know that giant mechanical bull covered in Budweiser cans we all saw at Pulse in 2009? It's by Kristian Kozul and apparently it's looking for a home. Kozul has moved back to Croatia, but he doesn't have space to store the work. Contact his dealer at Pablo's Birthday, if you think you might know of a good home for this piece.

Should I Go?

Eh, sure. Take the free shuttle from Frieze.


Stevie May 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Fine that you don’t like Pulse – but why not congratulate the fair for using UNION LABOR? Your previous posts seem to suggest you care about such a thing…

Will Brand May 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm

You know what, you’re exactly right. 

We didn’t think to comment on the union situation at Pulse because there isn’t really one, and that’s a tribute to the professionalism of Cornell DeWitt and his crew. Whatever we think of the art, Pulse is a well-run art fair, and its management should be applauded for having the willingness (unlike Frieze) and the organization (unlike Red Dot) to negotiate a deal reasonable to both sides.

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