Spring is art fair season in New York, and this year it will be more crowded — and more competitive — than ever. Earlier today, news broke that the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), the gallery collective that organizes an annual fair in Miami during Art Basel, is launching a new event in New York this May. The event is set to run the same month as Frieze New York, the first-annual stateside installment of the popular British art fair. Two other art fairs, Pulse and Red Dot, have also reshuffled their dates to coincide with Frieze. So what does this mean for New York's art fair season? Well, for one thing, there will be two of them.
March and May are quickly turning into rival encampents for two sides that are trying to lay claim to the New York fair market. In March, collectors can take in the Armory Show, the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA)'s The Art Show, Independent, Scope, Volta, and Moving Image. In May, there’s the aforementioned cluster of Frieze, Pulse, Red Dot, and, now, NADA — not to mention the major contemporary and Impressionist art sales at Christie's and Sotheby's.
The international spring art calendar offers even more competition. Five weeks after the Armory show ends, Art Cologne, kicking off its debut partnership with NADA, opens in Germany, Then, fewer than ten days after Frieze ends on May 7, Art HK — which was recently purchased by Art Basel, and is poised to be a hotter ticket than ever — begins in Hong Kong. Less than a month after that, then, the grand dame of art fairs, Art Basel, opens in Switzerland.
Is our collective appetite for art fairs large enough to sustain two rival groupings in New York, let alone countless others worldwide? Fair organizers are betting on it. George Billis, the director of the Red Dot fair network, kept his hotel fair, Art Now, scheduled for March to coincide with the Armory, but moved his flagship Red Dot fair to May. While he said logistics played a large role in the decision — staff found itself racing to prepare for Red Dot New York after completing Red Dot Miami in December — he also noted that, “typically, even without any New York fair, it seems to me that most collectors are in the city in May for the auctions, or one reason or another.”
Cornell DeWitt, the director of Pulse, reiterated Billis' logistical concerns as a reason for the shift. "We didn’t make the decision because we believe the Armory is circling the drain or anything — we think they are a great fair," he said. Still, he noted, "Frieze is the shiny new bauble in town that everyone is excited about." Pulse plans to stick with the May date for at least a couple years: "It's going to take more than a year for there to be a determination if March or May ends up on top," he said. "What’s actually happening is not that we’re in a new paradigm, but that the paradigm is shifting and we don’t know where it’s going yet."
One development is certain: in New York, galleries now have to either pick allegiances or participate in both the March and May fairs. Some, like David Zwirner, Regen Projects, and Lehmann Maupin, have signed on to both ADAA's The Art Show in March and Frieze in May (as has Nicole Klagsbrun, who, to make matters even more complicated, is also a NADA member). Hotel, Gavin Brown, Bortolami Gallery and Elizabeth Dee — as well as Jack Hanley, the treasurer of NADA — have also signed on to both Independent and Frieze.
Still other NADA members, like James Fuentes, could have been anchors for the group’s New York fair had they not already signed on to exhibit with Frieze. As of press time, NADA has not yet announced any details about its fair, but it bears noting that despite the loss of a handful of dealers to Frieze, several prominent members — Rachel Uffner, CANADA, Untitled, and Leo Koenig among them — exhibited with the Armory Show last year and are said to be likely to jump ship. All this is made more uncertain, however, by the fact that the Armory Show has not released its exhibitor list — despite the fact that the fair is less than two months away.