Why has the Dependent, our favorite New York art fair, been so quiet lately? For the last two years, the hotel fair had been held during Armory week, but now doesn’t even have a website. The lapse has nothing to do with lack of interest or sales, we learned from speaking with Dependent founder Rose Marcus—it’s location.
“I do plan to do it again,” Marcus told me matter-of-factly dauring our phone conversation. “I’m investigating doing it later this year, and May could be a better option.” The problem with May, during Frieze, NADA, and Pulse, Marcus admits, is that it’s a busier time for out-of-town visitors. It’s been hard for her to find a hotel.
“The last vendors were wonderful with us,” Marcus mentioned, but they’re already booked with NYU parents in town for graduation.
If all Marcus needs is a hotel, she could do it all year round. But she’d prefer to host it during fair season.
“There’s something very nice about the purview for very small spaces to potentially receive some of the hungover audience of these larger fairs, with people who aren’t based in New York.” And that did happen.“There’s a large audience that came the past two years,” she added, “because people were waiting for another kind of thing to happen.”
That “kind of thing”, for Marcus, is the pleasure—a word she mentioned throughout the interview—that art worlders get with the fair. “We lead these lives that are all really demanding and there’s this period of time where we’re stuck inside a cubicle version of summer camp,” Rose remarked.
With the Dependent, she kept the summer camp, and got rid of the cubicles.
“I chose conventional, crappy motel rooms that anyone could identify with,” she said, adding that “anyone who’s on a tight budget can do it.”
Even with tight budgets, the Dependent’s still a fair, and work did sell. “It’s well-known that one dealer sold a work for $30,000 last year,” Rose mentioned. But for most, sales weren’t such a concern. Overhead is low—just the cost of the room—and some dealers and artists didn’t confirm their participation until a week prior the fair. Without the added stress of making returns, with the Dependent, artists can concentrate on making strong, often site-specific projects.
“These people are very exceptional with what they’re doing,” Rose said, and with the Dependent, they can “go ahead and be your bad self and do your own thing.” That’s something dealers and artists want, and can’t get with most other fairs.
“People have asked me to do this again this year,” Rose said. “Working at a fair is hard and demanding for dealers, but this is pleasure.”