With the cloistered mega-fair Frieze New York looming to the north, buyers at the more modest Pulse New York were less impulsive, pun intended. Perhaps collectors were waiting to check out the goods on Randall's Island before making any major acquisitions. Small scale, affordable works are selling like hotcakes, while big statement pieces are accruing plenty of interest, but few final sales. Friday morning was a subdued epitaph to the frenetic bustle of Thursday, but a steady flow of modest sales kept Pulse’s heart beating. Many gallerists were optimistic about the weekend, while maintaining “don’t count your eggs” pokerface.
What may turn out to be the fair’s biggest sale is still the stuff of speculation. “City Surface,” Led Pencil Studios’ commissioned installation for Pulse Projects, is being seriously considered by an unnamed major New York museum, though the sale is not yet final. The work, priced at $165,000, depicts a narrow alleyway filled with plywood reconstructions of urban debris including an air conditioning unit, a dumpster, a traffic cone, and scores of other artifacts of city life.
British gallery Man & Eve's prime real estate at the very front of the fair paid off, garnering a great first day with a number of sales. Lisa Nowiki, winner of last year’s Pulse Prize in Miami, got a lot of attention and some of her intricate weavings were sold. Lain Andrews's surreal, semi-figurative acrylic on canvas painting “Progressive” sold for $8,000, and several of Alex Virji’s baroque video game-inspired ovular paintings went for $1,460 each.
At the other end of Pulse’s sales spectrum was Brooklyn's Causey Contemporary, which sold only one of Jordan Eagles’ blood, copper, and resin paintings for $1,000, one of his smallest and most inexpensive works. Perhaps collectors will come around — Eagles’ work was among the most refined and visually explosive at the fair, as ARTINFO noted in our top picks from Pulse. Torch Gallery had yet to sell Tinkebell’s controversial “Horse, My Little Pony,” but had put Terry Rogers’s debaucherous oil painting “The Calculus of Existence,” priced at $150,000, on reserve.
Lawrie Shabibi, the only gallery representing the United Arab Emirates at Pulse — and, in fact, the only Middle Eastern gallery at the fair — shined on Friday morning with strong chatter circulating around the work of Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke, whose work has previously been acquired by MoMA. Many potential buyers were interested in her phallic, Cy Twombly-esque painting, “These Goddamned Boys All Stealing,” priced at $14,500. Perhaps it’s the work’s interesting backstory that’s causing a stir: Kaabi-Link found the wall fragment in the basement of a Berlin building that, she later found out, used to house Cosy Corner, a Weimar-era gay cabaret bar. Or perhaps the attraction is the piece's subject matter. “Obviously there are a plethora of pensises in this work,” Shabibi conceded. A hypnotizing embedded video work with nods to Renaissance painting by Palestinian-Iraqi artist Sama Alshaibi sold, unsurprisingly, for $9,000.
Shortly after arriving on Friday, gallerist Daniel Weinberg said there had been“great energy yesterday morning, especially since it was so early.” He stressed that he tried to bring a little bit of everything, from Lee Bontecou’s minimalist paintings to works by current Whitney Biennial artist Andrew Masullo. Loren Munk’s loquaciously-titled “Graphic Representation of the Dialectical Aesthetics of Modernism 1900-2000” sold for $16,000. One of Massullo’s pieces sold for $6,000. Larger works were still available for $18,000.
“It’s good to have a themed booth,” said Noel Estrada of Galerie Stefan Ropke. “It’s nice to have a real conversation with collectors about ideas... it gets them excited.” The booth's theme — the intersection of art and science — seems to be generating chemisty with buyers. The gallery reported a nice mix of regular collectors and first-time buyers; selling works that investigate the science of optical perception. An abstract photograph by Sharon Harper sold for $15,000, as did two abstract paintings of undulating neon lines by Julie Opperman, priced at $2,800 and $3,000.
Davidson Contemporary had good news to report on Friday, having sold two painstakingly rendered white ink graphs by Pulse alum and rising star Sam Messenger, priced at $4,000 and $5,000. The gallery also mentioned “a ton of interest” in his large piece, priced at $25,000. Also reaping the benefits of the trend towards meticulous abstract work on paper was Philadelphia’s Gallery Joe, which sold a Mia Rosenthal drawing for $5,600 and a subtly elegant Lynne Woods Turner for $8,000. Frosh & Portmann reported a lot of interest in Paul Paddock’s spooky watercolors, and sold his cautionary “Don’t Mess With Alexis” for $3,800.
Mike Weiss Gallery had to rehang its booth, replacing Jan de Vliegher Fragonard-esque “Happy Lovers” (which sold yesterday for $20,000) with a similar Rococo style piece by the artist. Gallerist Anna Ortt happily mentioned that the fair was raising excitement for de Vliegher’s gallery show, which opened Friday night. Meanwhile, at least three collectors are seriously considering buying Will Kurtz’s “Brighton Beach Bench” installation. “Everybody is mad for it!” Ortt said. Whoever buys is going to need a big living room. Mike Weiss's 24th Street neighbor, Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard, sold six of Beverly Fishman’s druggy-cool glass pill sculptures, priced between $2,000 and $4,000 each. They also sold two Paul Henry Ramirez paintings for $4,000 each.
However, Hosfelt Gallery’s “Creature II” was hands-down the star of the fair, drumming up a lot of talk about Alan Rath’s interactive digital sculptures. Christopher Adams’s delicate ceramic calamari sold for $1,200, and the entire set of Ruth Marten’s piece were generating interest — and priced at $16,000.
Carrie Secrist Gallery of Chicago sold its most subdued and least color field-rich drawings by Anne Lindberg. Despite a number of inquiries about the large, site-specific thread installation “Call and Response,” the gallery was still waiting on a real commitment to the work, which will likely make for a complicated installation in a collector’s home.
Cologne's Galerie Kundlek Van Der Grinten had already sold work from nearly all of their artists, including pieces by Alexander Gorlizki, Eyal Danieli, and Jonathan Callan.
Freight + Volume sold David Kramer’s ink-on-paper piece “Simple Life,” and gained a possible commission for Michael Scoggins (known for his enlarged loose-leaf doodles and portraits) stemming from interest in his piece on view, “All American Family.”
Creative Capital, the generous grant-giving foundation, had surprising success at their upstairs location in the Impulse section — the part of the fair typically reserved for younger galleries with solo booths — even though the organization's main purpose was to preview pieces from their upcoming May benefit auction. They sold ten editions at $500 each (plus an auction ticket) from former grantee Eve Sussman’s stereoscopic “Elevated Train” series, and immediately found a buyer for Beverly McIver’s “Watermelon VII” at the estimated price of $850.
Perhaps the fair’s biggest success story also came from upstairs at Impulse. Williamsburg’s Black and White Project Space and Gallery reported selling out half their booth, wrapping up 13 works by Peter Brock priced between $2,500 and $5,000. Major collectors wrote out checks alongside first-timers in one of the biggest booth successes so far. Director Tatyana Okshteyn told ARTINFO, “big collectors from Minneapolis came, people who would never go to Williamsburg to see the gallery show.”