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One of the fairs taking place this week in New York that is not to be missed is Independent New York. The fair was founded by gallerist Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook in conjunction with creative advisor Matthew Higgs and director Laura Mitterand. This year’s edition plays host to over 40 international galleries and non-profits, and can be found at its new home of Spring Studios at 50 Varick Street. Whitewall caught up with Dee to discuss what to expect this week and Independent’s newest adventure in Brussels.
WHITEWALL: This year Independent New York will take place March 3—6 in a new home, Spring Studios. Can you tell us about the move to this location?
ELIZABETH DEE: That will be a really interesting shift for us. Spring Studios is a new concept. It’s a private club and an exhibition space that is used for visual art, fashion, film, and music. And we are the exclusive visual arts partner of Spring. It’s equally progressive in its thinking about we bring cultural community together. Visitors to Independent will get to experience this. We’re going to have mezzanines that look down onto the exhibition spaces. There are going to be places to sit and look at monographs, talk with gallerists about what you are seeing, and share that experience in a more communal way. It will be very generous in its layout, and I’m excited about that. The ground floor will be devoted to six of our newest galleries to the Independent family, Independent Firsts—Garth Greenan Gallery; VI, VII; Chapter NY; Mitchell Algus; Fleisher-Ollman; Silberkuppe.
WW: Can you share with us some of the programming highlights in New York this year?
ED: There are a lot of solo shows this year. Peres Projects is coming back again, and they are featuring Donna Huanca in a solo show. Canada is doing new sculptures with Joanna Malinowska. David Kordansky is doing a solo show with Evan Holloway. Maccarone is doing a Nate Lowman solo show. Venus is curating a Peter Saul solo show, and these works are out of control! Kerry Schuss has found this really interesting artist from the American Southwest doing hard-edged geometrical painting in the seventies, Robert Barber. There’s an American tradition of hard-edged geometric that hasn’t been explored at all. There is a lot of viable work that needs to be rediscovered and put into the dialogue, and Independent is really a place where consensus takes place. We can’t just rely on the fickle determination of the market. I think it’s great that gallerist like Kerry are coming in and nursing this rich material for us to discuss and discover again.
WW: This year, Independent will host its first international edition in Brussels, from April 20th to 23rd. Why Brussels?
ED: We’re now in our seventh year of Independent, and the art world has grown and changed and matured. One of the things that had come up in the past year was, how do we keep the quality high, the exclusivity focused, the content innovative, and refreshing and still be able to invite the galleries that are part of our network, or should be part of our network? The solution was not to become a bigger fair. That would be moving in the direction of the preexisting model, and that to me wasn’t particularly creative or interesting. We thought, “Let’s look at our European network.”
There are certain galleries that don’t have the economy to come to New York, so how do we address those needs? The other conversation was with our collectors. A lot of our Belgian collectors were coming over religiously for Independent, asking us, “Would you consider Brussels?” That was interesting. As we began talking with them, we realized there was a huge opportunity. Brussels is a place where the most curatorial gallery programs are happening. We found a wonderful building, a time of the year that was established as a Belgian art week that did not conflict with the fair calendar.
WW: Can you tell us more about what excited you about Brussels?
ED: We were excited that Brussels is a city in transformation and it’s a place where Independent’s scale could make a real impact. There is another fair in Brussels, Art Brussels, and I looked at their program and there was no overlap, so we weren’t in competition with anything. We are totally in parallel to the situation. We are amazed at how much focused the city is on Independent. In New York there is so much competing for that attention.
Independent New York is on view from March 3—6.
A version of this article will be in Whitewall‘s spring 2016 issue, out in April.