The fourth edition of the Independent art fair, among the plethora of shows popping up during Armory Week, is akin to the children’s tale of The Little Engine That Could, and in the end, it did. Compared to the Armory Show, which was like a trip to Ikea (one exhibitor in fact was selling furniture), and Volta, which dared to be different (I skipped Scope), the Independent was part art community, part church sale, and part paean to art team building that was sure to include nonprofit organizations like The Kitchen, Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, Printed Matter, and White Columns. It was especially sensitive in dedicating itself to New York organization’s that were hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, such as The Kitchen and Printed Matter, and not exactly embraced by FEMA compensations.
Wading through the crowded opening of the Independent Art Fair, held in the former Dia:Chelsea building with its ridiculously narrow stairway, I found myself doing more reading than gazing at art. While this was partly due to the inclusion of Printed Matter, the seminal alternative book and zine store that sustained massive losses from Hurricane Sandy, it was also because the galleries and nonprofit spaces in the Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook–founded art fair leaned heavily on conceptual works.