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It’s a simple fact: the art world is too insular. While this may not be an issue for those who are established, it can lead to feelings of exclusion, isolation, and intimidation for everyone else eager to succeed in the industry. To combat this, Sheri Pasquarella founded the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) in 2002 with John Connelly, Zach Feuer, and Zach Miner. With their help, she set out to create a support system for a new school of dealers and a community where dialogue around art and commerce could exist. This year NADA celebrates its 10th year and ninth edition of its NADA Art Fair. What follows is Pasquarella’s account of the beginning.
2001: Burgeoning DIY Ideology
In 2001, Pasquarella began to grow restless as an associate director at Marlborough Gallery, a job she hoped would help her learn about the art business before leaving to become an art lawyer. She lamented that with the creation of the Euro, the Internet, and changes in global policy (particularly trade) the art world would suffer due to its lack of self-governance and industry specific laws. Post 9/11, her views evolved from governance to alternative economic models and philosophies about collectivism. “With those ideas in mind, I began having conversations with my peers – most under 30. I asked: what is your experience in the art world like? Don’t you find it weirdly isolated and not community driven?”
2002: The Founding of an Unnamed Group
A year later at an Anselm Kiefer exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York, Pasquarella ran into Zach Miner, then associate director of the gallery. She mentioned her idea to start a collective and the difficulty in getting people to commit. Miner joined on the spot. Shortly after, Pasquarella read a review of an exhibition at a new space, John Connelly Presents. She was so impressed with the exhibition that she called him at the gallery and said, “I want to start a collective of young professionals in the arts. Are you interested?” John replied, “Sure, I’ll do it.” A few weeks later, she met Zach Feuer and propositioned him, as well. He too joined with little hesitation, becoming the fourth member of the unnamed group.
2003: Formation, Programming and NADA Art Fair
The quartet started meeting once a week to discuss their experiences in the art world and the specifics of the collective. Within three months, they had a working plan of how the group would function and settled on the name New Art Dealers Alliance. Ready to move forward, they each asked five people to attend a lunch at Half King in January 2003 to talk about the group. Twenty-four people attended, making this the first NADA meeting. “We went around the room asking each person the same questions, ‘Should a group of new art dealers exist? If so, why and what would you like to see it do?’ People were pretty much unanimous in their answer: We need change.” After the first meeting, a larger collective began to form. “We had BBQs and pizza parties, often at Zach Feuer’s place or in the basement of the White Horse on 23rd Street. There was no ‘cool’ factor or vetting people. It was a random cross-section of what was going on in NYC in art at the time.”
ReACT: An Evening of Performance/A Day Without Art
Programming for NADA initially included art walks and gallery tours with Vince Aletti, Shamim Momin, Stephen Shore, and Mari Spirito. Then they organized “ReACT: An Evening of Performance/A Day Without Art,” an event curated by Pasquarella and underwritten by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo at Participant, Inc to benefit the Long Island Association for AIDS Care. Participating artists included AA Bronson, Joan Jonas, Emily Sundblad, Alice Wu & Moriah of Feral Childe, Christian Holstad, member of the Black Leotard Front, and Lovett/Codagnone, among other pioneering artists. “Emily (Sundblad) called me as we were going to press on the invite and asked me to change her name to ‘Reena Spaulings.’ I had no idea what she was talking about, and in the end we changed it to ‘Emily Sundblad/Reena Spaulings.’” Word spread about the event and people started calling for tickets. “Most surprising was Roselee Goldberg who said she was curious because she was about to start this thing called ‘Performa’ so I gave her a comp.”
The evening included a slew of downtown luminaries – Alex Hubbard, Agathe Snow, Hanna Liden, and AsFour. While only raising $1,100 for LIAAC, the evening was a success with additional performances by AA Bronson and assume vivid astro focus. “In my lack of foresight, I did not videotape it, but it is fondly remembered by all 40 people who were there!”
NADA Art Fair
NADA agreed at their first meeting at Half King that they should start an art fair, but it was Janet Phelps, independent curator, who helped make it a reality. “Janet Phelps contacted Zach [Feuer] about a space on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and asked if we wanted to do a show there. We had a meeting in the backyard of Bellwether Gallery in Williamsburg. The vote was that they should have a fair, yet Pasquarella was surprising the only member to vote no. “I made a promise to Zach, John and Zach – in order to entice them to start the ‘group’ with me – that they would never have to do any ‘real work.’ If we started a fair I knew it would be impossible for me to do, as I was still the director of Gorney Bravin + Lee. As John and I walked to the L train to return to Manhattan, I started to cry. John asked why, I said ‘This is really exciting, but I don’t think I can do this.’ ‘Yes you can,’ he said, so we did.”