Seemingly everyone’s favorite art fair, at least according to the artists I talk to each year, The Independent has put on another strong showing in 2014. Set in the old Dia Chelsea space as usual, the more open, airy floor plan makes for easy digestion of the largely varied media of work on display. Galleries are separated in to dynamically and irregularly shaped areas rather than segmented booths, coaxing the curators in to creative hanging situations. The work on display tended to be on the dry or academic side, presenting an experience that may cater more towards the minds of artists and those immersed in the art world in one way or another.
The first floor you enter steals the show, and as you move upward, although still quite nice, in comparison the next two floors fall a bit flat in amassing successively conceptual work. It seems to work less well as the objects lean heavily on art history and theory, asking for a contemplative, informed viewing from the spectator. This kind of viewing experience is not conducive to the art fair in general, simply given the volume of both foot traffic and work presented.
One perk on a warmer day such as Saturday was surely the rooftop cafe, bookstore, and lounge. Half-covered in a clear plastic tent, all the beautiful people were able to congregate and smile at one another while they sipped beer, ate sandwiches, and smoked cigarettes, while absorbing the much needed sunshine. The eclectic nature of the inventively designed seating arrangements was enticing as well.
My picks for most engaging pieces from each floor would be arranged as follows. On the second floor, I enjoyed the playful, yet austere wall sculpture series on tambourines by Paul Lee for Maccarone Modern Art. The third floor had some great airbrush on canvas works from the late 60’s by Xanti Schawinsky with Broadway 1602. One corner of the fourth floor pleasantly surprised me with brief, whimsical video work by Roman Signer for the gallery Art: Concept.
Overall, The Independent gets my selection for best March art fair of 2014.
By Matthew Hassell