VOLTA NY 2017: Building True Relationships Through Art
It’s cold outside but hot at VOLTA. That quote is attributable to a gallery, or maybe it was a collector — but whomever the case, the mood inside Pier 90 was clear: discoveries were made and serious positions affirmed, with handsome sales and extensive contacts that ushered in the conclusion of VOLTA NY’s decade edition. Despite travel worries following the United States’ new administration and a permeating concern toward the path global entities are embarking upon, artists and galleries rose to the occasion with bold and thought-provoking positions that exemplified VOLTA’s mission as a platform and safe safe for freedom of expression and celebration of diversity.
“We thought the air might have seeped out of the balloon but It seemed as though New York needed a reason to be joyful and found that expression in an open and inclusive dialogue through the arts,” said VOLTA Artistic Director Amanda Coulson. “We made a concerted effort to have an inclusive programme and it definitely resonated with our audience.”
First-time VOLTA galleries from all over the world received great first impressions. By the week’s end Barnard Gallery (Cape Town) had moved six paintings by young South African artist Ryan Hewett, all warped portraiture of divisive political figures, to a energetic clientele. Nearly everything on view had sold, and dealer Alastair Whitton noted that, considering the huge following for the artist (including on Instagram), “people are excited to finally see the works ‘in the flesh’.” The Chemistry Gallery (Prague) similarly received a strong reaction to Tomáš Němec’s sensitive vignettes of male nudes, still-lifes, and interiors. “Reactions went from outstanding to beautiful, or the other way around!” commented director Petr Hajek. “We’ve had sales, so there is an opportunity for Tomáš (who is collected in Czechia as well as Europe) to enter U.S. collections.” COHJU Contemporary Art (Kyoto) had placed over six pointillist paintings by young artist Mio Yamato — winner of several notable Japanese accolades — to new clients, with dealer Fumiyuki Shimokado enjoying “the planning and elegance of this mature fair.” Nina Levant, director of Sapar Contemporary (New York) was busy throughout the week fielding institutional interest in Faig Ahmed’s showstopping carpet compositions, plus she placed several, including the new crimson waterfall Virgin. Meanwhile Juno Youn (owner of Galerie Youn, Montréal) recorded the sale of Osheen Harruthoonyan’s fourpiece Morphogenesis split toned gelatin silver print ($15,000) to a serious new client, as well as a positive reaction to artist Scarlett Rouge’s bell-jars and video installation Beyond the Walls of Eden. Arriving to New York ahead of Carnivale, Gabinete de Arte k2o (Brasília) enjoyed a very busy week, selling eight of mid-career Brazilian artist Galeno’s sensually colorful neo-Constructivist compositions to an international retinue, multiple holds on most else on view, and reception from notable collectors and curators. Commented dealer Karla Osorio, “We sold mostly to new people, which is good, no?”
Exhibiting at the fair was a chance to connect with collectors and curators, toward developing future projects. “We have received very good comments and created curatorial contacts from institutions interested in knowing about our project,” said Harold Ortiz, director of Timebag (Medellín), “and we see the possibilities of exhibiting the works of Juan Obando in their spaces.” He added that Obando’s video work Jeep VIP made a big impression on the public. “Initially they think it’s a video game, then they react to knowing it is a live proposal in Colombia. Somehow people change when they know the story behind it.” Likewise, Henrietta Tsui, director of Galerie Ora-Ora (Hong Kong) was proud of the institutional enthusiasm toward mid-career artist Zhang Yanzi’s major U.S. presentation and, thanks to her medical background, particular interest from Montefiore Medical Center (The Bronx) and NYU Langone Medical Center (New York), as well as New York’s Museum of Chinese in America and the World Bank Art Program. Plus, Zhang will be featured in a Collateral Event during this year’s Venice Biennale. First-time VOLTA gallery Richard Koh Fine Art (Kuala Lumpur) was pleased have their artist Haffendi Anuar himself around the fair to discuss his bold geometric reliefs recalling popular Southeast Asian “tribal masks” to guests. Anuar as well as three-time VOLTA exhibitor ARTLabAfrica’s (Nairobi) artist Beatrice Wanjiku are also featured in a Venice official Collateral Event, Personal Structures. George Lawson (of his namesake San Francisco gallery) met curators, writers, consultants, and gallerists throughout the week to discuss Susan MIkula’s new photographic series Kilo. “In this environment I’m able to get people to slow down and look at the art. Now I only do solo booths, it’s the only way to go.” First-time VOLTA gallery PRIVATEVIEW (Torino) shared the sentiment, as dealer Silvia Borella enthused about the “unbelievable mood toward our artists (Ben Slater and Jesse Hickman) and to the gallery.” Co-owner Mauro Piredda chimed in, “We’ve had strong interest in the works and a very positive reaction from collectors. This position is a great showcase for us.” Added Borella, “Because it’s not just about sales — which we’ve had — but a promotion and showcase for the gallery and our artists.” Patrick Mikhail (of his namesake Montréal and Ottawa galleries) recorded sales from Natasha Mazurka’s new body of work RECURSION, which highlighted the communicative power of patterns and their implications on social media, but “in true VOLTA fashion other wacky things happened,” conferred Mikhail, noting Mazurka beginning work with a curator of an upstate New York art center as well as commission interest from Montefiore Medical Center (The Bronx). “Of course it’s nice to sell off the wall, but our experience is always deeper than that.” Keith Schweitzer, co-director of DAVID&SCHWEITZER Contemporary (Brooklyn) recorded the institutional and curatorial caliber of visitors toward Ruth Hardinger’s several decades’ worth of major installation Evolutionary States. “Visitors have been like, ‘let’s see the work and let’s have a dialogue’ — and Ruth was here the whole time to speak about her work, so that was very meaningful to visitors.” Alexandra Rockelmann (director of ROCKELMANN &, Berlin) was very encouraged by week’s end, which produced five unique International museum shows from artist Kathleen Vance’s site-specific project Traveling Landscapes.
“We had a great fair!” Orit Ephrat-Moscovitz, director of Litvak Contemporary (Tel Aviv), enthused about the gallery’s second outing at the NY fair. They recorded sales of over 10 of Itamar Freed’s large-scale photography plus recorded considerable interest from museums, public collections, and curators. Two-time VOLTA exhibitor VICTORI+MO (Brooklyn) were likewise pleased for the public’s reaction to Langdon Graves’ ambitious installation Spooky at a Distance, where she was also featured as a 2017 artist-interview video subject with VOLTA’s longtime media partner GalleryLOG. “We placed work in prominent San Fran and Texas collections, both new to Langdon,” said co-director Ed Victori. “New peeps!” echoed co-director Celine Mo. Surveying the scene, Victori added, “There has been a brilliant response to the installation, which drives home the solo project feel of VOLTA.” Ethan Cohen Gallery (New York) director Cohen and team were busy all week promoting artists Armand Boua and Jeffrey Spencer Hargrave, selling a large Boua composition to an American and several Gibson paintings and 10 works on paper to Americans and Europeans — all new clients. The gallery also placed one Gonçalo Mabunda “mask”, composed of decommissioned artillery, as well as a statement Mabunda “throne”, which had been brought in initially as seating and to provide context to the other two artists in view. Cohen noted the throne went to a major Midwest collector who “loved the idea of munitions.” Knight Webb Gallery (London) had sold five metaphysical paintings by Joseba Eskubi by the weekend, with dealer Rufus Knight-Webb taking it all in stride. “It's a tougher climate now in the USA as it is in the U.K.,” he said. “One needs to be aware of collectors needs and desires more than ever.” Beers London (London) sold five of Andy Dixon’s opulent interior paintings, including a monumental centerpiece ($20,000) and dealer Kurt Beers was quite pleased and he added their artist was as well. Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin) sold Tamara Kvesitadze’s magnificent kinetic sculpture Man and Woman on Friday to a Turkish collector and Ne me quitte pas to a German collector, plus several energetically figurative paintings by Tina Schwarz. Across the hall at MARC STRAUS (New York), gallery partner Ken Tan recorded multiple sales of Todd Murphy’s large-scale Dress works over the first several days, to where they had to contact the artist to deliver a new piece fresh from the studio for the weekend. “Fair-goers were focused on artworks and were always ready with good questions.” Dealer Zavier Ellis of longtime VOLTA gallery CHARLIE SMITH LONDON (London) was encouraged as well. ““We had a great show with a huge amount of consolidation with collectors that we already work with acquiring both artists in our double solo. Emma Bennett nearly sold out with six out of eight paintings placed and Dominic Shepherd did even better with seven pieces sold. We also made deals for other artists on our roster, and have a whole load of people waiting to see new work."
Some galleries changed their looks dramatically over the course of the week, due to works selling out and others replacing them. Four-time VOLTA exhibitor GALLERY MoMo (Tokyo) rehung their booth Sunday morning after selling seven of Naomi Okubo’s storybook-like, multiple self-portrait paintings to an international clientele. Director Momo Sugita was especially pleased with visitors’ reactions to the works. “People have been very supporting of my artist Naomi. They meet her and talk with her, and as her English is improving she can explain her works. In the past, collectors may wait to make a decision, but after meeting Naomi they decide straight away.” Okubo was present throughout the week and, to commemorate the new installation, brought out her iconic outfit from opening day and painting THIS IS NOT MY LIFE. “It’s like a performance,” said the artist. “I’m having a lot of fun!” Galerie Dukan (Paris/Leipzig) had sold six of Rosa Maria Unda Souki’s emotive interior paintings recalling her childhood home in Venezuela, split between new Brazilian and American clients, as well as five additional works on paper to American and French connections. “And these are all new people — which is important to us”. Plus, Dukan met clients who recalled his installation from last year of artist Karine Rougier who will participate in the Maltese Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart) had a smashing success, selling 22 of Rudy Cremonini’s expressive oil paintings in total across three booth rehanging, all to American collectors who bought for the first time at their gallery. “Such a great fair!” commented Fuchs, who noted one new local client added the young Italian artist to her collection of large-scale works by Basquiat, Borremans, and others, while another painting went to a collection in the Lone Star State.
Safe spaces for expressing strong, salient themes were echoed in both the fair’s second iteration of its Curated Section, organized this year by Wendy Vogel as Your Body Is a Battleground, as well as throughout the main satin. From Manuela Viera-Gallo’s treatise on surveillance and pervasiveness of mass media as hand-carved Chilean wood pigeons (co-presented by Y Gallery, New York and Galería Isabel Aninat, Santiago); to Pacifico Silano’s sensitive collages from gay pornography culled from the height of the AIDS epidemic, frozen in Plexiglas slabs and presented by Rubber Factory (New York). Adjacent to the Curated Section, Samuel Freeman (Los Angeles) unveiled a further iteration of Danny Jauregui’s body of minimalist geometric abstraction renderings of gay bathhouse walls, rendered in enamel and human hair, further accented at the fair by a 12-foot photocopied Reuters article from 1982 documenting a three-decade spynet by the U.S. government upon gay rights organizations. Dealer Asha Bukojemsky admitted the works were not “easy”, but she was heartened to both the concerted critical enthusiasm as well as conversations with clients interested in the context of Jauregui’s historic (and yet undeniably timely) research. Such support carried over through Your Body Is a Battleground, a hotbed of action throughout the week. “It’s been really fantastic to participate in this show. Especially considering the many through-lines between a number of the artists here,” commented Sable Elyse Smith, exhibiting with MoCADA (Brooklyn). “I’ve had many really engaging conversations with a number of people who really responded to the work. People who took time to read, consider, and think through the imagery and motifs I'm dealing with — an engagement that is sometimes absent from art fairs.” Amy Hussein of Casa Quien (Santo Domingo) reflected on the week and exhibiting Dominican-American artist Joiri Minaya at the fair and in Video Wall programming. “This has been a huge exposure for Joiri, thanks to VOLTA and Wendy (Vogel),” she said, noting the great response from collectors and sale made, as well as the press’ reception. “It’s been a great experience. One of the best fairs we’ve participated in. Being part of the curated section is very important — it is so important for us and for Joiri to be part of this conversation.” She added the connection to Latin America curators and clients this week was extra strong, with the possibility for for future projects with her artist. “I’ve been working with Joiri for two years now, since I founded the gallery, so to present her here is an honor for us.” Nearby at Art Palace (Houston), dealer Arturo Palacios was calmly ecstatic after a fair week that began with meeting Rachel Maddow and, following meetings with high-profile curators, concluded in over $100,000 in sales for artist Deborah Grant. “I don’t know how you want to announce this, but for all intents and purposes we’ve sold out.” Plus, Palacios had lined up multiple exhibitions for the Texas-based artist, including two Paris galleries and several others, plus interest from MASS MoCA and other institutions.
VOLTA NY’s special programming drew considerable interest from visitors throughout the week. Musing on the week and the critical attention to the Wintercheck Factory Lounge that bisected some 700 feet of the fair midsection with Collection 700: RECEPTION, co-creator Kristen Wentrcek was contemplative. “I’ve always felt that, since our designs are not super colorful or cute, we typically don’t pull in interest from your average person. So instead of getting lots of Instagram posts and tons of people “liking” it, we get a small percentage of people who love it and want to talk about it.” Considering the sculptural quality of their works, which feature natural rubber combined with Corian and wire glass, Wentrcek was impressed with how many people actually used the pieces for what they were designed for: seating. “Plus kids are really into the rubber,” she added, “Maybe since they’re not allowed to touch anything else in the building?” Among the VOLTA Salon with artnet panel discussions, Saturday afternoon’s gathering “Shoot to Thrill: Picturing Identity in New York, 1977 – Now” between artists Janette Beckman, Krista Schueter, Joe Conzo, and the legendaries Bill Bernstein and Adrian “DJ Stretch Armstrong” Bartos, co-moderated by Adrian Loving and Vikki Tobak, easily attracted the largest crowd, with guests lingering afterward for Bartos’ co-signing of book No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988 – 1999 with Evan Auerbach in the VIP lounge, followed by Loving’s DJ set, which was an extension of local member’s only art social club ANOKO’s daily evening Art + Music programming. In addition to the live music, which ANOKO founder Shimite Obialo commented in the end “complimented the visual stimuli all around the fair”, was that somewhat rare combination of luxe furnishings — Article and Patrick Weder, with artistic direction by Julia Haney Montanez — thought-provoking art — Tim Okamura’s figurative series Begin Transmission, presented by ANOKO — extended artful dialogues with ANOKO staff and guests, plus the aforementioned live musical element, all of which, truthfully, made exquisite sense in the end. “People loved the concept of the ‘third space’,” Obialo explained, noting the progression of home (the first space) and work (the second space). “You have a place of community, creativity, and connectivity.”
A distinguished coterie of VIP guests attended VOLTA NY 2017 throughout the week, including: Carole Server and Oliver Frankel (New York); Steve Shane (New York); Reuben O. Charles II (Washington DC); Hubert Newmann (New York); Robert Drake (Netherlands); Thelma Golden (Director and Chief Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem); Dr. Vesela Sretenovic (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Phillips Collection); Helyn Goldenberg (Sotheby’s Chicago); Nadine M. Orenstein (Drue Heinz Curator in Charge, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Jaime DeSimone (Curator, MOCA Jacksonville) with MOCA Jacksonville Collector’s Circle members; Mary Birmingham (Dir. Visual Art Center of New Jersey); Jennifer McGregor (Director of Arts & Senior Curator, Wave Hill, the Bronx); Gabriel de Guzman (Curator of Visual Arts, Wave Hill, The Bronx); Tatjana Flores (curator/professor, Rutgers University); Rocío Aranda-Alvarado (Curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York); representatives from the Nasher Museum (Washington D.C.); members of Philadelphia Art Museum; Roberta Waddell, Independent curator (Curator of Prints at The New York Public Library, retired); Charlotta Kotik, Independent curator (Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum, retired); Sarah Tanguy (Curator, ART in Embassies); Margaret Winslow (Curator of Contemporary Art, Delaware Art Museum); curators from Tatar Art Projects (Toronto); Bleu Cease (Executive Director and Curator, Rochester Contemporary Art Center); Josephine Kelliher (curator, Dublin); Knight Landesman (Publisher, Artforum); Sophie Turner (actress) and Joe Jonas (musician); Lee Ranaldo (artist and musician); among many other distinguished guests and art-lovers.
“We’re really proud of the fact that in ten years we have broadened the usual “art fair” audience to be a much closer reflection of this city,” Amanda Coulson reflected. “This was really evident, from the artists, to the galleries, to the visitors. Attending an art fair can be a very rewarding occasion — while it is obviously a commercial event, it can also act an amplifier to the very real and very dear concerns of the marginalized or disenfranchised, as well as perhaps a catalyst for some very meaningful dialogue and even societal benefit. We’ve made this our mission in New York, and we take it with us to Basel in June.”