When Will the Independent Art Fair Grow Up?

The Independent is 15. Hip, chic, and so boutique, the Manhattan art fair doesn’t want to grow up. It wants to stay lean and taut, focusing on mid-size galleries and new talent. It prefers jeans and leather jackets over three-piece suits, a vape over a Cuban cigar, cushy sofas and hanging chandeliers over sterile white boxes. Yes, it cares about sales, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about the fun, the vibe, the scene, the hype. The Independent’s dream is to stay forever young.

But we all get old; we take fewer risks and become middle-class and tame. We stop detesting money-making and start seeking security and comfort. The wiser among us realize that the longer we cling to youth, the sadder the whole thing looks from the outside.

At Tribeca’s trendy Spring Studios, I found an art fair in denial, desperately putting off this next stage of its life. It’s like grey hair dyed a bit too dark. Maybe when the Independent turns 30 it’ll finally accept itself as a trade fair.

This year’s edition also includes an inaugural talk series about such weighty issues as persecuted artists, art activism (without specifying which kind), and big-tech art censorship. Tickets cost up to $50. I wonder what makes the Independent the right venue for these solemn conversations. It’s akin to corporate-style Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives that are designed to put a pretty face on an ugly system. No salvation will ever come from a pricey art fair.   

It is this inflated pretentiousness, combined with piles of mediocre and objectionable art, that laid the foundation for my displeasure with this year’s Independent.

But it wasn’t all bad. I encountered some great work, such as vanessa german’s cobalt blue mother-goddess sculpture, Amanda Baldwin’s enchanting landscapes, Ryan Mrozowski’s paintings of orange trees with an optical twist, Glenn Goldberg’s elating dotted paintings of pigeons, and more. Join me for a tour through the fair’s four floors in the photos below.

The Independent is celebrating its 15th year.
Cushy sofas for a casual ambience
Hanging chandeliers and decorated stools
Amanda Balwadin, “Cedars In Syracuse” (2023) at Public gallery’s booth
vanessa german’s “Blue Mother” (2023) with Kasmin Gallery
Fairgoer looking at Glenn Goldberg’s “An Other Place (23)” (2024)
Elizabeth Atterbury, “Fourth Fan” (2023) with Mrs. Gallery
Ryan Mrozowski “Untitled (Nocturne)” (2024) with i8 Gallery
Andrew Brischler, “Self Portrait (as Rosemary)” (2024), gouache, colored pencil, and graphite on paper mounted to panel.
Front: Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens, “Gaddafi’s Speech” (2024)
Anna Tsouhlarakis, “YOU KNOW SHE BUYS HER SAGE AT URBAN OUTFITTERS” (2024) with Titan gallery
Ruby Neri’s ceramics at the Independent
The art fair prefers to stay lean and taught
One of Joe Mesler’s live portrait drawing sessions at the fair
Alison Watt at Lévy Gorvy Dayan
Maia Cruz Palileo’s miniature sculptures at Monique Meloche Gallery
A Luke Agada painting at Monique Meloche
Maybe when the Independent turns 30 it’ll finally accept itself as a trade fair.
Olivia Jia at Margot Samel

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