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Matthew Higgs on the 10th Edition of Independent

Matthew Higgs

The New York edition of the Independent Art Fair is open to the public Friday, March 8—Sunday, March 10. The fair is celebrating its 10th anniversary, returning to Spring Studios in Tribeca with presentations from over 50 international galleries and non-profit institutions.

Whitewall checked in with founding curatorial advisor and director of White Columns Matthew Higgs about what to expect this week.

WHITEWALL: What does this milestone mean for the fair?

MATTHEW HIGGS: Independent launched around the time of the 2008 financial crisis. It seemed like an interesting time to think about new models for art fairs: to try and create an intimate and hopefully meaningful experience for artists, art dealers and audiences alike, something akin to our encounters with art in galleries and exhibitions. Ten years on, I think Independent has shown that the idea of a focused and independently-minded platform for art—of all kinds—still resonates.

WW: How has the mission of Independence evolved since its beginnings?

MH: From the outset the goal was to create a space or context for art that artists would be interested to participate in. This isn’t always the case with art fairs! This remains at the heart of what Independent does.

Beyond this we wanted to dissolve some of the hierarchies that exist in both the art world and at art fairs. We wanted to present a wide range of art, presented by a wide range of dealers, and to present them in dialog with one another. This includes our ongoing support of galleries that show the work of what Lynne Cooke has identified as “outliers,” i.e. the work of self-taught, folk and other artists who might traditionally have been deemed to be “outsiders.”

These conversations—between artists and galleries of often very different intentions—has been central to Independent’s success. Also the scale of Independent, around 60 or so exhibitors participate each year, has always been important: it makes for a very focused experience, one that clearly resonates with our audience. It’s clear that many art fairs have got too big over the past decade,  a tendency that I think may have reached a breaking point.

WW: Will we see representation from any new cities this year?

MH: I’m personally excited that both Cooper Cole and MKG127 from Toronto will be at this year’s Independent. Toronto has always had a great art community, with many great galleries, not-for-profit organizations, and institutions. I’m always surprised that there isn’t more of a dialog between New York and Toronto, as  the cities are, in so many ways, neighbors.

WW: Are there any themed or solo booths of note you could share?

MH: We have always encouraged and supported the participation of what I think of as “maverick” art dealers—galleries like Kerry Schuss, Delmes & Zander, Fleisher/Ollman, Thomas Erben, Herve Bize, among many, many others. I think their accumulative energy is one of the things that distinguishes Independent.

I’m always excited to see what they will present at Independent. There is always a sense of the ‘unexpected’ in their programs and their approach to running a gallery: qualities that I hope are central to Independent’s mission too.

WW: Outside the fair, what are you looking forward to seeing and doing in New York this March?

MH: I’ll be at work, running White Columns, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020. White Columns are participating in NADA New York‘s latest initiative, the inaugural “New York Gallery Open,” so we are excited to see how that unfolds. I’ll also be walking our dog Olive every day, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to see all the other fairs and events that are taking place in parallel to Independent. It’s always a great time to be in New York.



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