In unofficial conjunction with the inauguration of Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, the galleries on Chelsea’s 26th Street decided to go big and throw a block party last Saturday. If there is one kind of party that galleries excel at, it’s glamorous and exclusive after-hours functions, on a rooftop suite somewhere far above the streets of Chelsea; if there’s one area where galleries are found unanimously wanting, it’s dealing with the public, with “regular” people, the viewers who venture through their doors simply to look and not to buy. Considering this, it was surprising and encouraging to see high-end Chelsea galleries reaching out, in a coordinated effort, to the art-going public.
The Art Show has been hosted by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) for the last 23 years, reigning supreme as the longest running national art fair. The ADAA consists of 175 galleries but only seventy exhibitors enrolled this year, excluding stunners like Andrea Rosen, Betty Cunningham, PPOW and Gavin Brown. A large majority of the participants are located uptown between 50th Street and 90th Street. The generalized content (“cutting-edge, 21st century works” and “museum quality pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries”) and my fears of dated academia prepped me for the deflated viewing that was The Art Show. The ADAA’s Executive Director spoke to the “calm and intimate atmosphere” of The Art Show. Although the Park Avenue Armory’s soaring “balloon shed” construction is partially responsible, the cavalcade of elderly patrons weren’t exactly rambunctious. The air-kisses exchanged between crotchety senior citizens summoned a swinger’s club way past its prime.