I would say this goes beyond my expectations,” says New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) fair director Heather Hubbs, who was in an ebullient mood this afternoon, standing in the lobby of the Deauville Beach Resort. It was just a few hours into the VIP preview for the seventh edition of this fair for young dealers, and already works were flying off booth walls. Some art market observers had expressed skepticism at the fair’s move from the Ice Palace to its new venue, spread over two ballrooms in the Deauville, about forty blocks north of the convention center — one for solo shows, and one for group shows. “I think people were blown away today. I’m really happy.”
And for good reason. No sooner had the doors opened than collectors began streaming in. Josh Adler, Davis Nisinson, Lenore and Herbert Schorr, Susan and Michael Hort, Joel and Sherry Mallin, Dean Valentine, Phil and Shelley Aarons, Robert Shimshak, Beth Rudin de Woody, andSarah Aibel, curator for Adam Senders collection who swiftly bought a work by Frank Selbyfrom Museum 52. And the list went on.
While there were a few dissenters — “The Ice Palace had more of a downtown vibe,” said Nisinson — most collectors raved about the new Deauville venue. “I love it, there’s lots of energy and fun,” said Lenore Schorr, who was making the rounds with Nisinson, about whom she said good-naturedly, “He and I have a disagreement!” Her husband, Herbert, also seemed pleased with NADA. About Art Basel Miami Beach, he griped, “Things are still too expensive!” The Schorrs could be spotted checking out works by Sarah Dwyer at the booth of London galleryJosh Lilley, who was doing brisk business with Dwyer, offering paintings by Vicky Wright priced at £7,000 ($11,600) for larger works and £4,500 for the smallest size. “This fair has gone phenomenally,” says Lilley. One of the Vicky Wrights went to collector Anita Zabludowicz, who runs a private museum in London.
The trade was on hand, too, with dealers taking a break from their booths at Art Basel Miami Beach to visit and maybe spot some talent. White Cube honcho Jay Jopling was making the rounds, as were Nicole Klagbrun, Stefania Bortolami, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, and her colleague atMitchell-Innes Nash, Jay Gorney.
Dealers began selling early in the day. Only an hour and a half into the opening, New YorkerLisa Cooley sold a hanging sculpture by Andy Coolquit to an American collector for $3,000, as well as a few paintings by Alan Reid.
“There are waiting lists for young artists now!” exclaimed Boston-based collector Marjory Jacobson. “You have to get in line — it’s shocking! People are doing really well.”
Augusto Arbizo of New York’s Eleven Rivington gallery made the bold move of having an enclosed booth with walls painted a bright lemon yellow, against which the work he’d brought, all in black and white, was set off dramatically. Only minutes after NADA’s opening bell, Arbizo sold two shiny abstract paintings by Jacob Kassay, for $8,000 apiece. (When ARTINFO stopped by Arbizo’s booth, collector Jean Pigozzi was making a visit; by chance, Pigozzi had worn a shirt the exact hue of the booth’s walls. “I guess you got the bulletin,” Arbizo joked.) By mid-afternoon, Arbizo had sold two sculptures in the form of beehives — and incorporating honeybee comb — by Hilary Berseth, for $7,500 each. “I’ve sold so much, I don’t have enough work to rotate into my booth,” the dealer mock-lamented.
The price range at NADA tended to be modest. Another New Yorker, Nicelle Beauchene, swiftly sold out a booth full of abstract paintings by Sarah Crowner, at $7,500 for larger works, $6,000 for a medium size, and $3,000 for smaller pieces. Beauchene did NADA last year in the Ice Palace. “Last year I think people stopped looking at work here,” she says. “They were after bigger things. Now they’re looking again.”
Even an artist whose work is on view in the main fair, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, whose dealer,Rachel Uffner is doing Art Basel’s Art Positions section, raved about NADA. “It looks great. There’s real energy.” She singled out the booths of New Yorkers Derek Eller and Klaus von Nichtssagend.
New York dealer Stefan Stolyanov did a solo show of work by Ellen Harvey, and sold six small pieces in prices ranging from $3,000 to 18,000 in the first hour. He also had several museums interested in a large, $65,000 installation by Harvey, a wooden enclosure featuring numerous mirrors that, seen from outside, reflect paintings of mountains behind them, and seem to be paintings themselves; when viewers enter, they see only their own reflections. “I like this at an art fair,” said the artist, explaining her work. “It’s all about paintings you can’t necessarily have.”
New York art adviser Todd Levin, director of the Levin Art Group, also visited the fair. “On the whole, it has gotten tighter curatorially, and stronger qualitatively, every year,” he said in a text message. “And this year is no exception. In addition, the move to the new venue has also made the fair seem more distilled and focused.”
Adviser and dealer Lorinda Ash was also browsing the aisles, and popped into Leo Koenig to snap up a photograph by Daniel Gordon, for around $3,000. Ash was a little disappointed with some aspects of the fair — “Basel expanded and took a lot of good galleries from the satellites,” she observed. But she couldn’t resist the Gordon. “I think people want to buy right now,” she said.
The Deauville’s slightly cheesy resort decor — “I worried that the bar mitzvah feel of this ballroom might be a problem,” said one dealer, who was swiftly placated by (what else) selling work — set up potential hurdles in only a few cases. Glancing down at the ballroom’s swirly carpet pattern, Ellen Harvey recalled the previous night’s initial installation of her large artwork, which now sported a wooden floor. “At first we kept the carpet,” she said. “But it started looking like a Swiss chalet breakfast room — too kitschy!”
Others were abundantly pleased with the setting. Sean Horton, who runs Horton Gallery(Sunday L.E.S.) in New York, had a booth full of trompe l’oeil paintings by Kirk Hayes next to a set of picture windows fronting the Deauville’s poolside terrace. “It’s the most amazing view I’ve ever had at a fair,” the dealer quipped. His good mood was aided by the fact that he’d sold out his booth in the first hour of the fair, at $10,000 per painting, to American collectors. Shortly after the buying spree, a London collector happened by the booth. “He said, ‘If I buy the whole booth will you cancel everyone else’s sales?’” recalled Horton. No deal. The early birds got the worms at this fair.
Another slightly disappointed party — though genially so — was New York art adviser Simon Watson, who was miffed that he’d lost out to London dealer Jay Jopling on one of Brendan Fowlers works at Rental gallery. “He crossed out my name and put in Jay’s!” he exclaimed, pointing the finger at Rental proprietor Joel Mesler. But Watson was consoled by getting a Fowler for his client, Beth Rudin de Woody, who also, according to the fair’s PR, bought a piece by Bruce High Quality Foundation called Sack of Rome from New York’s Y Gallery. Rental’s installation of Fowler’s artworks, which are composed of framed images of flowers cracked and interposed with one another to form sculptural arrangements, was one of this fair’s hits — Susan and Michael Hort also bought one, for $5,500, and will display it during their annual brunch during New York’s Armory Show in March. The display extended to Mesler’s rather messy hotel room, where Fowler’s artworks were displayed on the walls, and propped against the floor, amongst cardboard shipping boxes, and even in the bathroom, where they achieved a different, sort of grungy appeal. (Who says the “hotel fair” has died?)
Works by Puerto Rican artist Angel Otero were as popular as the Fowlers, selling like hotcakes over at the booth of Chicago dealer Kavi Gupta. Improbably — and impressively — all of Otero’s artworks, including his sculptures, are made entirely of oil paint. As impressive: He just won a coveted Annenberg fellowship. At prices ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, Gupta couldn’t hold on to even one of the Oteros he’d brought.
Gupta is a veteran of the NADA fair, and feels that this year’s edition, in the new Deauville venue, captures something of its original, pioneering spirit. “If we’re going to be in a trade fair, this is the way to do it. Maybe, [at the Ice Palace] we’d become too focused on the business aspect. This feels relaxed. It’s enjoyable. Everyone is upbeat,” he said. “There are something like 700 gallerists staying in this hotel right now. There’s a community being built here. It’s like NADA used to be.”
Sarah Douglas is staff writer for Art+Auction, Modern Painters, and ARTINFO.