reinventing the art fair with independent projects new york
Where typical art fairs see galleries and their artists confined to individual white cubes, Independent opens up the format, putting artists in dialogue with each other across exhibition space, generations, and continents, creating a more comprehensive...
Independent Projects art fair founder Elizabeth Dee says that her goal is "to feature artists in depth." Dee and her co-founder Darren Flook created Independent Projects as a combination fair and exhibition, to run subsequently in the former Dia space in Chelsea this month. Working with White Columns' curator Matthew Higgs and their curatorial committee, Dee and Flook have selected each artist in an effort to spotlight a new generation of creatives like Nicolas Deshayes and Marina Rheingantz, as well as historically significant works by the likes of Yves Klein and Mike Kelly. We spoke with Dee before Independent Projects' closing exhibition weekend to discuss this brave new thinking in the art world.
What was the genesis of Independent?
It came about 5 years ago. There were a lot of questions about how and why we were doing what we were doing in the gallery system. It was created in dialogue with my colleagues who were interested in adding their own generational discourse to that model. We all talked on a regular basis, particularly at fairs in Europe when we had time to sit down and explore those issues in depth. It became clear that as a generation we could get together and build something that incorporated other generations, that it might be more conducive to our climate and the artists we were working with and the way we needed to function in order to maintain our curatorial creativity as gallerists.
What is the purpose of an art fair and how does that differ from the purpose of Independent and Independent Projects?
I think it's a place to discover and commune with new things and to learn and to grow one's understanding of the landscape. I know that I can go to Frieze and participate as a gallerist or go as a visitor and check up on the all of the artists that I'm already following and see their new works. I can do that here also, but I don't think that's our focus. I think it's to introduce things before they come into the market context. And also to bring people to a historical understanding that isn't part of the main dialogue—the main superhighway of art history. To bring in the people that are key and were influencing others, and to build an understanding of how that information exchange happens, from the 60s into the present. That's what we have in this building.
How would you compare Independent Projects to something more exhibition focused like the Whitney Biennial?
I actually think it's more similar to that then an art fair because we invite galleries and we invite particular artists from galleries in a curatorial committee. We actually drive the line of thinking behind what is being shown. So it is a curated project, it is an invitational. Matthew Higgs [Independent's Creative Advisor] has had a really wonderful sense of that form the beginning and has been valuable in contributing that voice.
Why did you choose to do half art fair, half exhibition?
It's how I started the project initially. We always had key figures that weren't in one generation and key younger galleries coming up that we always wanted to work with. Bringing in more established galleries became an opportunity to further that interest. And also we have the space so that everyone has a democracy about how they're working and showing things. Emanuel Rohss's space is exactly the same space as Raymond Pettibon or Mike Kelly. You're actually able to see the work on its own terms again.
Finally, where should we look next for exciting, young artists?
I like what's going on in London. I think it's very well represented in the show with Emanuel Rohss, Prem Sahib, and Nicolas Deshayes particularly. You always have Germany too: Nina Beier in Berlin and Bunny Rogers from New York are really big standouts.
Text Clarke Rudick
Image courtesy Independent New York