Pay and Display

Jonathan T.D. Neil reports back from the Art Dealer’s Association of America’s Art Show

The trumpeters blew and the very rich and the kind-of beautiful fell to order, or at least to air kissing, champagne swilling, and canape scarfing, at the Art Dealer’s Association of America’s Art Show, which opened its doors for the twenty-sixth time on Tuesday evening, as it long has, under the cover of a charity gala. All was ‘for the kids’, as they say.

The Art Show has transformed into a peacock refuge where top galleries and strivers preen about with their tails unfurled

Once a redoubt for stodgy secondary market dealers of mostly modern masterschlock, The Art Show has transformed into a peacock refuge where top galleries and strivers preen about with their tails unfurled over luxurious booths, many of which are increasingly dedicated to a single artist whose ego or prices just won’t fit anywhere else.

Of course there is still plenty of lesser merchandise on offer, but the profusions of ‘stuff for the drawing room’ now merely punctuate longer passages that all bespeak a ‘you had better pay attention to this’ seriousness of one sort or another. Against the attention deficit disorder of the Armory Show, and the banality of Independent’s self-regard, the ADAA is coming off as just what it is: the adult in the room.

Some peacock tails are better than others. Alexander Gray Associates, new to the ADAA and to The Art Show this year, brought a series of now signature paintings by the formidable Jack Whitten, who undoubtedly deserves all the recognition and cash that Gray and his partner David Cabrera are ably shepherding his way. Yes, yes, it’s not about the money – until, of course, it is. The plumage that most could have done with a few more feathers belonged to Metro Pictures. Sara VanDerBeek’s photographs have never looked more anaemic, and the herring-bone screen that anchored the booth’s ‘installation’ should have been left as a sketch on the MFA studio floor.

Most curious was the Ann Hamilton sideshow at the Carl Solway Gallery. Hamilton is on hand making free photographic portraits of fairgoers who are asked to sit behind a scrim of a ‘semi-opaque membrane manufactured by Bayer MaterialScience LLC’. Only partially visible through the hazy scrim, the photographs look like estimations of what it might be like to suffer from macular degeneration: a dreadful experience anywhere but at an art fair.

The Art Show, ADDA, Park Avenue Amory, New York, 5-9 March 2014