Image of Independent courtesy IndependentEditor's note: Continuing our coverage on the New York's Art Week is an interview with Independent's Jayne Drost. Be sure to check out yesterday's interview with the Armory's Michael Hall.Karen Archey: You seem to wear many hats in Elizabeth Dee's operations. What are your job titles and how long have you worked with the gallery?Jayne Drost: I've worked with the gallery for 3 years. I've worked with Elizabeth in several different roles: currently as the Director of Elizabeth Dee, also as the Deputy Director of X Initiative during 2009-2010, and also as a co-director of Independent with Laura Mitterrand.
What are your favorite aspects of the job?
Elizabeth's approach to how she works with art and artists is incredibly inspiring to me. Collaboration is extremely important to her, as is considering how her role can adapt to the changing needs of artists and the art world in general. These characteristics helped shape the development of X Initiative and Independent as well as continue to influence the gallery practice. For me, it's exciting and fulfilling to work with someone who is constantly evolving and thinking about how to work with art and artists, and it has created many opportunities that I've had that I'm very thankful for.
With the gallery, X Initiative and Independent, all three are extremely nimble operations and the few people involved often wear many different hats. I love working like that, so these roles have been a good fit for me. They each also involved a level of collaboration with other peers and colleagues whom I really admire--Cecilia Alemani at X Initiative, Darren Flook and Laura Mitterrand at Independent to name a few--and it's been fantastic to work with them so closely.
Can you describe the criteria that informed the creation of the Independent?
With Independent, we wanted to create an experience for the exhibitor and for the viewer that takes a different approach than a more traditional art fair model. Art fairs are a very important part of what we do--and not just from a sales standpoint. The fairs are a platform to bring artists to new audiences and for people in another part of the world to discover them and experience their work in real time. Every year I go to Basel, I discover a new artist or gallery I may not have known about the year prior. I think that this is valuable for the artist, the gallerist, and the viewer.
Another aspect of Independent that is important is building the fair around the art instead of vice versa. At Elizabeth Dee Gallery, we work with several video and installation artists, and it's not always easy to adapt a white cube and make a space that is the best environment for exhibiting that work. With Independent, the positioning of the projects is very carefully considered from a curatorial standpoint. We talk with each gallery about what work they are showing and what kind of space or layout would be best for their presentation, and we do our best to fit their needs.
Do you see the Independent as a "satellite" fair? Do you think these roles are changing?
I don't think of Independent as a "satellite" fair. We think of it more as a selection rather than an alternative. Through the limitations of the space we have a really edited, small selection of great galleries, that are able to focus on more challenging projects here than they might be afforded in a different fair. So it's more like a curated selection than an alternative--it's not as if galleries came to the Independent because they couldn't get in anywhere else.
It’s rumored the Independent will add walls to the 22nd street space this year, which should make the fair feel very different from its sprawling rendition last year. Considering the fair's lack of walls seemed to be mostly popular among the press and distinguished itself from its cubicle-bound competitors, what went into your decision in considering this addition?
We had walls last year--the amount of walls we have this year is about the same or slightly less than last year. The placement of the walls is entirely dependent on what each gallery requests for their presentation.
I've noticed the Independent has managed to bring aboard veteran galleries such as Jan Mot, who has never before participated in an American art fair.
I think gallerists such as Jan Mot saw the fair last year and realized Independent works more like an exhibition than a traditional art fair, and that we provide an enjoyable context to work within, including great company. I think many people see Independent as a more appropriate way to exhibit their work that isn't as confining as the traditional cramped booth. Independent is also housed in such a beautiful building with great history--I think for a lot of people it just works for them. It's just a more relaxed atmosphere where critics, curators and whomever can come around work that needs a little more explaining. I think this attracted a range of galleries, including bigger names such as Gavin Brown and Sprüth Magers. We were interested in galleries that contribute to the conversation about where art is going rather than where art has been, so these additions have been perfect for us.
The Independent hosts no artist lectures, panels, or other pedagogical programs usually associated with art fairs. Is there a reason for this?
Last year, we were able to host a series of programs that were independent of the exhibition floors, on the ground floor of the building. We no longer have the ground floor of the building--it has been renovated into permanent gallery spaces--so we don't have as much space to do large programming. We do still have some programming this year that is taking place within some of the exhibition spaces.
I'm certainly not complaining, but what went into your decision to make the fair free of admission? The admission price of other fairs such as Art Basel or the Armory can get quite steep!
The lack of exhibition fee again has to do with the fact that art fairs act as a platform to bring galleries and artists to people who may not otherwise experience them. We want Independent to be welcoming to every curator, collector, gallerist, artist, or individual interested in art to be able to walk in and have this experience, and not feel alienated because they cannot afford the admission fee.
What is the future of the fair? Is there an Independent scheduled for 2012?
Oh, wow. I think once we get through this year and see how it goes, we'll figure out what we're going to do next year. But for the time being, we're just focusing on getting through 2011!