The opening night gala of the Art Dealers Association of America’s (ADAA) art fair attracted the usual crowds of well-heeled Manhattanite connoisseurs and international tastemakers alike.
Whereas the floors of the 67th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue are typically covered in gray carpet for the crowds of art lovers, this year’s edition featured hardwood floors, lending a sleeker and more modern vibe to the storied show.
If the fair lacked some of the celebrities and typical boldface names that characterized past editions, this time around, there was no shortage of high-profile museum curators, collectors, and artists whose own work graced the surrounding booths. We spotted Nina Chanel Abney, Kalup Linzy, Adam Pendleton, and Donald Moffett, to name a few.
Could all of this have translated into a more serious audience in our Instagram-obsessed society?
“Look around…. no one is taking selfies,” P.P.O.W. co-founder Wendy Olsoff told Artnet News, noting the engaged, interested crowd of onlookers. Perhaps shockingly, her assessment was true, even considering the crowds descending on the gallery’s booth for a solo show of work by California artist Ramiro Gomez, who was in attendance (and in demand) at the booth.
Early sales reports, delivered just hours into the opening, indicated a strong response to the works on offer, including Pace Gallery reporting a sellout of their solo booth of text paintings by Adam Pendleton.
Here are a few more works you don’t want to miss.
Ziphi Emhlabeni (2019)
Booth: Yancey Richardson Gallery
What It Costs: $14,500 (each, in an edition of eight)
Why It’s Special: For the past several years, South African artist and photographer Zanele Muholi has been creating self-portraits in various locations throughout the world as a means of addressing issues of race, gender, personal history, and African political history.
Recent portraits on show here, including works made in formerly colonized countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, continue her efforts in that series. While bearing witness to the history of European imperialism in Africa, Muholi marks their presence in these locations, reclaiming their space.
Installer 4 (2020)
Booth: P.P.O.W. Gallery
What It Costs: $6,500 to $25,000
Why It’s Special: Gomez, who was born in San Bernardino to undocumented Mexican immigrants, focuses on the invisible labor forces devoted to maintaining those distinctive looking pools, gardens, and mansions in Southern California. Artnet News has been following his signature works for the past few years at fairs and gallery shows (including at P.P.O.W. and the gallery of Los Angeles dealer Charlie James) in which he’s been showing serene Hockney-esque images where workers who maintain lavish properties are not-so-subtly acknowledged. A bonus? Gomez himself was on hand in the booth last night to greet eager viewers and fans (including us). We asked what’s different about tonight’s presentation, which included more immersive pieces, as well imagery imposed on high-end architectural and home decor magazines.
“I love to keep expanding and not give the expected,” the artist said. The same magazines that were prevalent in the homes where he was employed (Town and Country and Architectural Digest, to name two) are the ones that have now featured him—an irony not lost on him. After briefly attending the California Institute for the Arts, he worked as a live-in nanny in West Hollywood. These works take on additional layers of “representations of internal fantasies, dreams, and expressions of the self,” according to the gallery.
Lot 0210007/20 (OO, night loop) (2007/2020)
Booth: Marianne Boesky Gallery
What It Costs: $110,000
Why It’s Special: Marianne Boesky devoted her booth to a series of mixed-media works, titled Fleisch, that Donald Moffett first started working on in 2007 and returned to recently. The resulting display is both quiet and dazzling.
“Fleisch is the German word for our English half-rhyme flesh, which designates the meat and fat between skin and bones, as well as, figuratively speaking, carnal needs or appetites,” art historian Kate Nesin writes in a catalogue essay accompanying the show.
Moffett’s works “can at first appear all skin and bones… barely painted, though their stretched linen expanses have been sized,” according to Nesin’s essay. Marianne Boesky pointed out the multiple additional symbols and marks—like tear shapes—and metal zippers that emphasize the connection between painting and the body. The compositions are “provocative and poetic, serving as an implicit form of social critique of the body politic,” she said.
On Sunday, March 1, the artist will be participating in the fair’s “Meet the Artists” event, where he will be registering voters at the booth from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Keep an eye out for Moffett’s limited-edition sticker encouraging people to vote.
The Sea (1947)
Booth: Cheim & Read
What It Costs: $450,000
Why It’s Special: Although Alice Neel is rightfully renowned for her evocative portraits, her practice had a wider scope than most realize. Cheim & Read’s solo presentation of the artist’s work includes multiple renditions of urban environments and this roiling, figure-free marvel of the coast.
Gallery cofounder John Cheim defines The Sea as a “pantheistic nature painting”: look closely, and you can see eyes in the surf and faces in the sky above. Neel claimed she painted the work from memory after taking a solo walk along the Atlantic Ocean to clear her head upon learning of her father’s death. Channeled through her usual virtuoso brushwork, the complex emotions stoked by her loss infuse the turbulent seascape with an elemental power—one that Neel enhances further by bending the horizon into a crescent, as if grief had torqued the natural world into some alien planet.
Homo Rodans (1959)
Booth: Gallery Wendi Norris
What It Costs: $2.5 million (available only to institutions)
Why It’s Special: Homo Rodans carries the distinction of being the only surviving three-dimensional work by the gone-too-soon Spanish Surrealist Remedios Varo, who died in 1963 at just 54 years old.
Wired together from chicken, turkey, and fish bones saved from meals with friends, the sculpture purports to be the extant skeleton of a species called Homo rodans, an overlooked predecessor to Homo sapiens that sported bat-like wings and a large wheel in place of legs.
Accompanying the sculpture is a stunning illustrated manuscript in which Varo adopts the character of a fictional German anthropologist named Hälikcio von Fuhrängschmidt, who argues for a rewriting of evolutionary history to account for this preposterous creature.
“She wanted to imbue her love of myth into science,” says dealer Melanie Cameron. The result is a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece that stretches across genres, from assemblage to illustration to meta-fiction.
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