Alex Da Corte’s giant balloon for Frieze Projects, 2016 (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Cherry blossoms, tulips, and visits to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden may signal spring for many who live in New York. But for those working in the art world, you can hardly savor the warmer days before being shuttled onto that ferry to Randall’s Island for Frieze, opening this week. Of course, it isn’t all bad — there’s plenty of good art to see there, as well as at the nine other fairs taking place. Mainly, you need a little patience, and some guidance is always helpful.

Below you’ll find highlights of events and exhibiting artists, as well as an introduction to an art fair that’s new to New York (Superfine!) and surprise appearances for this time of year (Spring/Break and TEFAF).

Stay tuned for our reports from the fairs throughout the week, and don’t forget to check Hyperallergic’s Instagram for pics.

 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

When: May 5–7 / Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 12–8pm ($20)
Where: Pioneer Works (159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn)

Returning for the third year to Pioneer Works, the 1:54 fair has a tighter focus than most, exclusively showcasing contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. However, the art, as in previous editions, is bound to be diverse, with 19 galleries participating from Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Morocco, the UK, the US, and South Africa. The fair’s Forum program will aptly question the idea of community; for example, Charles Gaines, his son, Malik Gaines, and his son-in-law, Alexandro Segade, will discuss how one’s generation influences one’s thinking and work. The fair also has a series of special projects, including an exhibition of Malick Sidibé’s famous black-and-white photographs of everyday life in 1950s Bamako, Mali.

Art New York

When: May 3–7 / Wednesday: 5–8pm; Thursday–Saturday: 12–8pm; Sunday: 12–6pm ($40)
Where: Pier 94 (55th Street and Twelfth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan)

This enormous fair featuring 1,200 artists strives to share “never-before exhibited works,” which would be a feat considering the big names involved, from Richard Avedon to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Christo. But, given the sheer size, there will likely be some discoveries to be made, and if you get overwhelmed, you can check out the event schedule, which includes a discussion on forgery and how to identify a fake.

Collective Design

Olek and Todd Merrill Custom Originals, “Swivel Thrones: #You, #Ribcage, #Regret, #Risk” (2015) in the Todd Merrill Studio Contemporary booth at Collective Design, 2015 (photo by Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic)

When: May 3–7 / Wednesday–Sunday: 11am–5pm ($30)
Where: Skylight Clarkson Sq (550 Washington Street, Hudson Square, Manhattan)

This year, the LAB at Rockwell Group wants visitors to Collective Design to feel like they’re walking on the red carpet — except it’ll be blue and you’ll travel down a tunnel made of glimmering foil. On the other end, you’ll be able to see design objects by famous figures from the past (like Isamu Noguchi) and more contemporary artists (like Robert Stadler). Now in its fifth year, the fair is a fun opportunity to take in furniture from the midcentury alongside 3D-printed home objects.


When: May 3–7 / Wednesday: 5–8pm; Thursday–Saturday: 12–8pm; Sunday: 12–6pm ($40)
Where: Pier 94 (55th Street and Twelfth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan)

The sister fair to Art New York, Context welcomes plenty of unfamiliar names with a focus on younger artists in the beginning and middle of their careers. Highlights include the intricate acrylic paintings and collages of Puerto Rican artist Cristina Toro, represented by LaCa Projects, and an installation by Jason Myers at Long-Sharp Gallery of 99 portraits, each portraying “a faceless nameless member of the 99% — each unknown to most except the IRS and the NSA.”

 Frieze New York

When: May 5–7 / Friday, Sunday: 11am–6pm; Saturday: 11am–7pm ($46)
Where: Randall’s Island Park (Randall’s Island, Manhattan)

Frieze has enough going on over the course of three days to make your brain explode. I find that it helps to go with a plan to alleviate imminent headaches. The fair’s two curated sections, oh-so-sexily titled “Frame: Exciting Young Talents” and “Spotlight: 20th-Century Pioneers,” are surprisingly not just showcasing the usual suspects (I’m especially looking forward to the Amilcar de Castro and Susan Cianciolo displays). There are also a number of special projects, including Elaine Cameron-Weir’s military-style bunker, which will be installed on the lawn. Some of the talks and panels seem promising, too, including two on Latin American and Latino art, one on how artists can affect change, and a reading by Claudia Rankine.


Portal Art Fair at Federal Hall, 2016 (photo by Allison Meier/Hyperallergic)

When: May 3–8 / Wednesday–Monday: 11am–6pm (free)
Where: 435 Broome Street (Soho, Manhattan)

Last year, Portal intriguingly occupied the United States Customs House on Wall Street. While the Soho space this year is a less unusual site, the fair still stands out from others in that some of its artists were selected through an open call. Organized by 4heads and now in its second year, Portal (of which Hyperallergic is a media sponsor) features only 29 artists — meaning you’ll actually have time to look at the work, which tends to be less flashy in nature than that of the bigger fairs.

Salon Zürcher Africa

When: May 2–7 / Tuesday 6–8pm; Wednesday–Saturday: 12–8pm; Sunday: 12–5pm (free)
Where: Zürcher Gallery (33 Bleecker Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)

You can find more contemporary work by African artists at Salon Zürcher this year, though the selection is smaller than the one at 1:54, with just five participating galleries from Paris, New York, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa. Painters and photographers dominate, among them Girma Berta, who seems to bridge the two mediums with his images of lone pedestrians against surreal planes of bright color.

Spring/Break Art Show

Tamara Santibañez’s “Thinking About Everything, But Then Again, I Was Thinking About Nothing” at Spring/Break, March 2017 (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

When: May 7–14 / Sunday–Saturday, 12–7pm (free)
Where: City Point (300 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Downtown Brooklyn)

Spring/Break has not taken a break this year, considering its last iteration was only two months ago. For the past six years, this fair has secured exhibition space for free at various New York City landmarks, including, mostly recently, the offices of Condé Nast and the skylight at Moynihan Station. This time around, a dozen artists are designing site-specific installations and environments for BKLYN Immersive at the sprawling shopping complex City Point.


When: May 4–7 / Thursday–Sunday: 4–8pm ($7.77)
Where: 459 West 14th Street (Meatpacking District, Manhattan)

This Miami-based fair with a perky name is making its first stop in New York. Featuring 45 international exhibitors, the show aims to sell affordable art and “break from white box art fair norms.” It’s not exactly clear how this will be accomplished, but some of the more tightly curated booths seem potentially interesting, including the special project “Everything Old is New Again,” curated by the fair’s co-directors Alex Mitow and James Miille, which will explore the theme of nostalgia.

TEFAF New York

When: May 4–8 / Monday 12–6pm; Tuesday–Sunday: 12–8pm ($50)
Where: Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Ave, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

This fair might make for a good pairing with Collective, as the emphasis will be on modern and contemporary design. Renown for its focus on antiques, TEFAF is generally held in New York in the fall and is having its first spring edition this year. The show will also feature jewelry and African and Oceanic art — according to the fair’s website, “The inclusion of African & Oceanic works and ancient art will cement the coherent aesthetic that is popular among contemporary and modern collectors.” Despite the pomp and circumstance, TEFAF is an opportunity to see state-of-the-art design objects before they likely disappear into the hands of collectors.

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.