Photo Essays

Brooklyn’s First Art Fair

James Clark's "Untitled" (2010) hangs in a window at the "Brooklyn Art Now" exhibition at 111 Front Street (click to enlarge)

When the Verge art fair launched Verge Brooklyn, many Brooklyn galleries were peeved that the DUMBO-based event could take away from local galleries scenes in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Park Slope and elsewhere. Why would they have to pay to be in an art fair in their own borough when Armory week was the only time they could get international collectors to their spaces?

I attended a meeting at the Williamsburg Gallery Association a few months ago and many of the gallery owners told me it was the one weekend that they could count on hundreds of new people to their spaces and many of them collectors who are in town for the fairs.

Even if the Verge Brooklyn fair began with a bumpy start it was able to achieve what no one has tried before, an art fair in Brooklyn.

Whether Verge Brooklyn is a success is something we will have to wait to see, as I suspect there will be many more people in stark contrast to the trickles of people I encountered on Friday after. The fair itself is very diffused — it is split between six different spaces — and is comprised of two halls of gallery booths, two artist project spaces, and an exhibition curated by James Kalm (aka Loren Munk) titled Brooklyn Art Now.

The gallery section was small and not as exciting as the other fairs, but some of the artist spaces were interesting (even predominantly very conservative) and Brooklyn Art Now had some surprises, most notably the fact that Kalm was able to pull together a rather large mutli-room show with no budget.

Culled from an array of Brooklyn galleries, which were invited to submit work, and the pieces by individuals artists asked to show, the “survey” is located at 111 Front Street and includes — among other things — an informal “Brooklyn Bad Girls” room, a gallery of some excellent abstract painting, a makeshift video room and a hallway performance by Wayne Coe.

Here is what I discovered wandering around Verge Brooklyn, which was as decentralized as Brooklyn itself. I also spoke to the Brooklyn Art Now curator who gave me a little insight about his show.

A view of the booth the ARCH 402 gallery of London, which had a display of street artists, including works by Brooklynites Elbowtoe and Swoon.

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ARCH 402’s display of works by Sweet Toof was impressive. Here you can see (center column, from top to bottom) “Rampage” (nd), “Cut to the Chase” (nd), and “Front Line” (nd).

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Brooklyn’s MoCADA museum of diasporan African art had a booth at the 81 Front Street space. Here artists Jabari Owens-Bailey stands near his display of fabric airplanes that were for sale individually, titled “Dispersing Planes” (2011). The booth also featured a projection of MoCADA TV, which will premiere on BCAT in a few months, according to Owens-Bailey.

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New York’s Stillife Gallery had a good display of works by Eric Parnes that riffs off the notion of orientalism and Western consumerism. He fills cheap orientalist mosaic frames with simple paintings of Western brands in North African and West Asian countries.

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Eric Parnes also had a work titled “Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll in Farsi,” which is self explanatory.

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One of the most unique parts of the Verge Brooklyn fair were the booths by local artists, which were separated from the commercial fair.

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While most artist booths were pedestrian, some, like Ines Sun’s “The Mobile Tea Garden” were little unexpected excapes. Guests were welcome to partake in a soothing (semi-private) tea ceremony. Her artist statement says that the project hope to create “a corner anywhere in the world reserved for tea and to ponder … No matter how large or small the spaces are, I will create a tea garden for people to retreat from the outside world, rest, do nothing and be nothing … “

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Ugur Kunst wasn’t around but his gigantic tongues were hard to avoid in this artist booth corridor.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: A view of one of the best rooms at the Brooklyn Art Now survey. Left to right, Shari Mendelson’s “Round Silver Vessel” (nd) via Side Show Gallery, Don Voisine’s “Veer” (nd), Steven Brower’s “Child Astronaut Test Suit” (nd) via Parker’s Box, (partially hidden) Nick Yulman’s “Song Cabinet” (nd) via Ventana 244, Ben La Rocco’s “Minerva’s Pallette” (2009) via Janet Kurnatowski Gallery, James Biederman’s “Zing” (nd) via Janet Kurnatowski Gallery, and Richard Timperio’s “Salinas” (nd) via Side Show Galery.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: Kalm curated this “Brooklyn Bad Girls” room with works by (left to right) Tescia Seufferlein’s “What Boys Club” (nd) via English Kills Art Gallery, Jenny Morgan and David Marmor’s “Mystic” (nd) via Like the Spice Gallery, Don Pablo Pedro’s “Untitled” via English Kills Art Gallery, and (foreground, left to right) Christy Singleton’s “Joy Runner” (on floor, left) via Sugar gallery, and Janet Kurnatowski’s “At Times, I Can’t go on Without You” via Janet Kurnatowski Gallery.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: In the foreground is Rahul Alexander’s “Golden Chamber” (nd) via BAC Gallery which includes a real hot dog that is replaced when it starts looking dry, while a photo by Pinar Yolocan, ‘Untitled (from Mother Goddess Series)” (nd) via BRIC Rotunda Gallery, in the background is flanked by two works on paper by Patricia Smith via Front Room Gallery.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: An impressive wall with (left to right) Meg Hitchcock’s “Nausea: The ‘Sunyatasaptati’ (Seventy Verses on Emptiness) By Nagajuna, from ‘Nausea’ by Jean-Paul Sartre” (nd) via Famous Accountants Gallery, some of Eric Doeringer’s infamous “Boot Legs” series, and editions from Jennifer Dalton’s “New Years Resolution from Popular Culture” series.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: Kathleen Laziza of the Micro Museum in downtown Brooklyn stands in the Brooklyn Art Now video room with her “Kissing” installation. She’s asking visitors to blow her a kiss on camera to include in her upcoming show.

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BROOKLYN ART NOW: Ben Godward’s “Shhh! I Live Here” is perfectly framed by the trappings of what looks like an abandoned office space at 111 Front Street in DUMBO.

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The Verge Brooklyn art fair is open Saturday, March 5 from noon to 10pm and Sunday, March 6 from noon to 6pm. It is located at various locations around DUMBO, Brooklyn. Visit brooklynartfair.com for a map of the venues.

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