In a change-up from past years, the ADAA Art Show is opening a full week before the Armory Show and its satellite fairs in New York, which gave its gala vernissage tonight at the Park Avenue Armory an especially luxurious air. There was nowhere else to be—or, at least, fewer places to be. The crowd for the well-loved drinks and canapés—among its attendees were collectors Donald B. Marron and Martin Z. Margulies and Museum of Modern Art painting and sculpture curator Laura Hoptman—was perhaps a bit smaller than usual, and a solid percentage of the roughly 70 dealers have organized superb booths, so it all felt like a nice aperitif before the whirlwind of next week.
As has recently become the custom at the Art Show, which is toasting its 30th anniversary this year, the range of works on offer is bracingly varied. There are rich stores of pieces by Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, and others classic names—New York dealer Jill Newhouse devoted her booth to the influence of Pierre Bonnard—but there is also the ultra-new, like a series of pastel-colored sculptures by Nairy Baghramian at Marian Goodman. Baghramian’s works were made from polyurethane and lacquered aluminum, and had the look of luscious fabric, perhaps fine velvet.
Paul Kasmin was celebrating its new position as representative of the estate of Jane Freilicher, the veteran New York painter who died in 2014, with an elegant display of female nudes by the artist, who is better known for her poetic landscapes and cityscapes. Though the pieces date from the 1960s and ’70s, they look quite contemporary at a moment when figurative painting is resurgent, and Molly Taylor, the press director of Kasmin, said that people had been coming up to the booth asking, “Is the artist going to be here?” Alas, they will not be able to meet her, but they can pick up a painting for $95,000 to $125,000. (Bonus points for Kasmin: the gallery has opted to use the Armory’s raw wood for its booth. Very fresh.)
Over at the booth of Alexander Gray Associates, director John Kunemund was explicating the subject of the gallery’s booth: the “Weave Paintings” that Harmony Hammond made from 1973 to 1977, which are dense abstractions of oil paint and Dorland’s wax that the artist patterned with methodical incisions using the back of a paintbrush. Quietly beautiful at a distance, they’re wild up close. “There are spikes coming out at you,” Kunemund said, right next to one, before adding that Hammond “talks about skin and wounds and scabs” in relation the works. He politely declined to talk prices, but would say that she only made around 30 of them. And there is some news: the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, is planning a Hammond survey, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart.
Similarly rich in texture were rigorously messy paintings on shaped canvases by Mel Bochner at New York’s Peter Freeman gallery. They’re priced at $195,000 apiece, and one was already on reserve in the pre-gala hours of the fair.
New York’s Peter Blum Gallery turned over its booth to a timely series: Chris Marker’s photographs of North Koreans. Some of the works had previously been shown at the New York gallery in 2014, but since then, they’ve taken on a new significance. Marker, who is best known for his essayistic documentaries, took the photographs when he traveled to North Korea in 1957 as a journalist. Most of the images depict nothing special: women stroll through city streets, mountainous forests appear overgrown with trees, men smile for the camera. (In an unusually straightforward one, a little girl stares at a political cartoon about U.S. involvement in her country.) For the most part, these works are extremely ordinary, and this is their point—they depict North Korean citizens as perfectly harmless, totally normal people. In today’s climate, they act as arguments against Trumpian threats of war.
Speaking of Trump, a couple artists took on the American President himself. In Abstract Expressionist Portrait of Donald Trump (2018), a massive painting presented by Michael Werner in collaboration with Mary Boone Gallery, Trump gets the Peter Saul treatment, with his wispy, thin haircut merging with hands dragging brushes slathered in vomit-green paint. And nestled away in David Zwirner’s booth, which is devoted to a 25th-anniversary presentation of the gallery’s full roster, was a Marcel Dzama work on paper that features Trump with two cartoon ducks on his shoulders. Neatly scrawled around him in cursive was “the Love of all things Golden.” (For those yearning for the Obama days, there was a portrait of a teenage boy by Kehinde Wiley, who just unveiled his portrait of the former president. It was brought to the fair by San Francisco’s Berggruen Gallery, and before the preview even began, it was snatched up by a buyer for an undisclosed price. The gallery was also peddling a Gerhard Richter painting for $2.2 million.)
At the booth of New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, there were a series of colorful abstractions by the painter William T. Williams. Done using acrylic paint, these works, priced at up to $480,000, look like glazed tile walls, albeit unnaturally bright ones. Williams is “a person who likes to be control,” Michael Rosenfeld director halley k. harrisburg said, and the canvases are done using a rigorous process that includes the use of masking tape, layering and re-layering paint, and, occasionally, even re-painting past works. The colors—toxic yellow, acid red—aren’t the only shock to the eye at the booth. “He surprised us with new work,” Harrisburg said. The new paintings, which are smaller, cost a more modest $95,000.
Another small surprise came at the booth of Lehmann Maupin, of New York and Hong Kong, where the photographer Catherine Opie debuted new ceramics. These are very unusual works for Opie, who has for years exhibited her sharp pictures of queer communities, Los Angeles, and landscapes (some lovely out-of-focus photographs of American forests were on view here, too). The ceramics resemble charred tree trunks and knotty wood, and they are exhibited on a low wooden plinth. Over in Los Angeles, at Regen Projects, Opie just debuted her first film, The Modernist; now, she’s revealed sculptures. What will she get up to next?
The late, great Frank Walter, also a polymath, is the subject of jewel box of a survey at Hirschl & Adler Modern’s booth. Walter, who died in 2009 at the age of 82, was one of the stars of last year’s Venice Biennale, representing Antigua & Barbuda, which was making its first appearance in the grand show. A vitrine contains relics of Walter’s life, including photos he took his studio in the capital city of St. John and an elaborate hand-drawn family tree that traces his ancestry back to Charlemagne. He worked across seemingly every medium, Tom Parker, the associate director of Hirschl & Adler, noted—he carved sculptures, wrote stories and songs, and painted mysterious, brilliantly colored landscapes on the back of Polaroid paper ($4,500 a piece), as well as remarkable geometric abstractions that go for $45,000; a couple were for sale, but in the case of others, “The family is not going to part with that anytime soon,” Parker said.
Not too far away, New York dealer James Reinish & Associates, Inc. had devoted its booth to the famed art dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz, filling its walls with works by artists that he promoted. Some the pieces passed through his hands, while others were published in Camera Work, the influential quarterly journal he founded. There’s a luscious Oscar Bluemner for $2.45 million and a Marsden Hartley beach scene, replete with buff young men and available for $1.95 million, that appeared in the Met Breuer’s recent show about the painter. Ann Restak, a director at the gallery, said that last year they focused their Art Show booth on dealer Edith Halpert and her storied Downtown Gallery, and that Stieglitz felt like the right follow-up.
Which tempts the question: in 50 or 70 years from now, when the ADAA Art Show is marking its 80th or 100th birthday, which of today’s dealers will enterprising secondary market dealers do booths about? Swing by the Art Show, which is open through Sunday, and begin placing your bets.
Sarah Douglas contributed reporting.