NADA Comes Home

by Paddy Johnson Will Brand and Whitney Kimball on May 7, 2012 Art Fair

Derek Eller and Ten Haaf Projects at NADA NYC

Last week, Corinna Kirsch and I awarded NADA’s New York debut with a full six-pack of whoop-ass, knowing full well it would not be as spacious or eventful as Frieze. NADA's not trying to re-invent the fair model like the Independent, Seven, or Moving Image, and it doesn’t have talks. It's just a fun fair, with a lot of energy, and way too many walls.

Why It’s Important

NADA cares, and caring works. The New Art Dealers Alliance was started ten years ago by a close-knit group of emerging galleries, mostly from the Lower East Side, who wanted to build a community and also make lots of money. They’ve been a pretty fantastic success at both.

They’ve achieved that in their fairs through free admission, minuscule booth costs for young galleries, an approachable attitude, and—this time around, at least—a central venue. As their founding galleries have grown up, the tone has slowly become less scrappy and more profitable, but NADA has largely kept the feeling of community intact. The endgame for NADA isn’t becoming Basel or Frieze, it’s becoming the ADAA (both NADA and the ADAA, notably, are nonprofits). Go to NADA, look around the room, and imagine everyone thirty years older; it’s happening.

The Good

We like the people. Dealers are friendly and want to talk, which—if you're not a collector—feels rare. Not only does this make for better conversation, but it attracts a livelier crowd than Frieze.

It’s free. It’s about as much art as you’re going to get in any one building in Chelsea today, and it’s a fun event even if you’re not going to be doing any business at the fair. There’s also a manageable number of booths, so you’re not going to get overwhelmed.

For the exhibitors, NADA is extraordinarily well-organized. It’s good to its people, employees and exhibitors alike, and that makes a difference. It also makes serious money; Artinfo reports brisk opening-day sales, with a number sold-out booths on the first day.

The Bad

So. Many. Walls. NADA makes a convincing case for the no-walls, open-floorplan ethos of the Independent art fair, which used the same space to much better effect. NADA has to fit in around 20 more exhibitors than the Independent, so people are crammed. Creative hanging arrangements are basically galleries’ best strategy to attract viewers in this maze of cubicles, as evidenced by the seemingly endless number of  galleries shoving work into crawl spaces and the outsides of booth walls.

Also, is it just us or are the stairs in the former Dia building getting really annoying? They’re not quite long enough for their height, which makes climbing them a chore. Also, old people: they have money and they suck at stairs. We’re betting it’s uncomfortable being the old guy inching along and holding up the stairs, and uncomfortable people don’t buy things. Just saying.

Should I Go?

Duh. Yes! It’s free. Also, despite the cramped space, it's still possible to see a lot of great art here. Today’s your last chance, so get to it.

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