For the second year running, New York will host not just one, but two major art fair seasons within months of each other. Already fatigue seems to be the byword of choice for dealers, artists, and journalists faced with seeing the same, booth-friendly work throughout the year. For that reason, we look forward to the smaller shows that crop up in alternative spaces; with a young, usually rotating cast of artists and dealers, we expect, at the very least, to find some novelty. Wish Meme, a curated exhibition at the Old School on Mott Street held in conjunction with art fair week and the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY Festival, dashed our expectations for a hopeful alternative to the blue-chip fairs.
Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, co-founders of New York’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show, organized Wish Meme, and this May exhibition looks nearly identical to March’s art fair, also held at the Old School. Artists making an appearance for the second time include Fall On Your Sword + Sarah Bereza, Ambre Kelly (also the co-organizer), Aaron Anderson, Zain Burgess, Eric Carlson, Myla Dalbesio, David Alexander Flinn, Adam Ianniello, Joe Jagos, Aurora Pellizzi, Rachel Rossin, and Russell Tyler. Curators, too, are making the same appearance at Wish Meme as they did just two months ago.
The Old School location, which had been a source of inspiration for many of the site-specific works, shines less brightly this time around than last. Pedagogical-themed works are common to Wish Meme, just as they were to SPRING/BREAK. Now some of those projects seem to repeat one another, suggesting that new life needs to be thrown into the school-themed exhibition. In March, curator Anglea Conant of Gowanus Studio Space advised artists to create new work while keeping a pencil in their mouth. That selection included takeaway pencils courtesy of artist Alix Lambert. At this week’s exhibition, Ghost of a Dream is giving visitors takeaway pencils, too. Visiting their schoolroom installation, HOPE/LESS, we were told to grab a pencil and scribble out our “thoughts on tragedy”. That’s an overly flippant treatment of tragedy; it’s nearly impossible to recall tragedy on demand, much less at a crowded, boozy art opening.
Most disappointing with this fair alternative is a fundraising affiliation with the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY festival. Visitors to the Saturday night opening were turned away if they didn’t pay a $5 entry fee (Andrew Gori mentioned this was an oversight and that the donation is merely suggested), and throughout the week suggested donations will continue. Those donations will, in part, benefit the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY festival. This decision is confusing: Why does the New Museum need to benefit off a show of emerging artists and curators, many of whom are selling the work on view for not much more than $100 on Paddle8?
It can be difficult to throw together an exhibition on such short notice, just two months after hosting another one. But if the Old School organizers are to set themselves apart from the slew of other art fairs, there needs to be more variation from participants.sentence, but I don’t love it as is. After all, isn’t this the problem with the current fair model— year-after-year, the same artists, brought by the same galleries?
Correction: HOPE/LESS was previously referred to as HOPE/LESS and TRIUMPH.