Back in October NADA explained that in response to their members, they decided to move their fair dates from May, when they showed alongside the Frieze Art Fair, to March,when they would open alongside the Independent, The Armory and the ADAA. Their members felt that more collectors were in town during Armory Week. That’s not wrong, but herein lies the problem of being beholden to a membership. They ask for dumb shit. Sure, more people are in town, but there’s five times as much competition from other fairs, making it difficult to attract quality exhibitors.
And that shows. This year’s iteration of NADA is by far the worst showing I’ve ever seen of the fair, in any location, in my 12 years of reviewing it. In this show, art stands out not for uniqueness of vision, but rather because it’s been placed on an unusually colored wall or within an immersive installation. Long time dealers showing subpar versions of art fair standards—minimalist squares, droopy ceramics, squiggly abstraction—sublimate the more adventurous work of struggling emerging art spaces. Vast amounts of space are left open for visitors, yet dozens of exhibitors, in row on row arrangement are given minuscule exhibition booths.
This last aspect of the fair I actually found offensive. It’s one thing for a commercial endeavor that exists for the purpose of making money to make the mistake of not sharing enough of its resources. It’s quite another for a non-profit like NADA to make the mistake, because its very existence can only be justified by its generosity. If NADA can’t demonstrate that, then what is its purpose anyway?
I suspect they’re aware of these issues and working on them, which is good and important, but in the short term they’ve got problems. The fair is a complete disappointment and were it not for a few stand out booths, hardly worth visiting. My advice to NADA? Move the event dates back to May when it has to compete with the giant island art fair, Frieze, and deal with the fact some collectors won’t get to the mainland.
Highlights after the jump.