Buyers Flock to Volta's Hip New Downtown Location for Affordable Finds

Jade Townsend's installation view at Gallery Poulsen
(© Jess Mandia)

Having escaped the midtown purgatory of West 34th Street for new loft-like digs at 82 Mercer and upped the ante from 80 to 95 booths, Volta opened to peppy sales at noon on Thursday. Long known as the intimate single-project David to the Armory’s Goliath, Volta encourages collectors to discover new artists without submitting to the dizzying visual clutter of too many oeuvres crammed into a single booth.

Despite unanimously reviled weather conditions, turnout was robust and red dots were aplenty. Distinguished visitors spotted throughout the fair included collectors Jorge M. Pérez, Wendy Fisher, Susan and Michael Hort; as well as Yale University Art Gallery curator Jennifer Gross, Prospect New Orleans executive director Brooke Davis Anderson, and representatives from Miami’s De La Cruz Collection.


Many dealers reported strong sales, though mostly at smaller prices. Works in the $2,000 to $10,000 price range seemed especially popular, suggesting this fair attracts more value-conscious collectors. Given how wildly inflated contemporary art has become, affordable art comes as a welcome relief.

From the twee to the towering, many booths had three-dimensional pieces. Collage was everywhere this year in particular, with several outstanding presentations at American gallery booths. New Orleans dealer Jonathan Ferrara sold 15 of Michael Pajon’s jewel-box collages of antebellum ephemera, nicely priced between $1,000 and  $6,500. Buyers included the 21c Museum of Louisville, Kentucky; a private collection in Boston; and Volta’s managing director Chris De Angelis. Ferrara was glad he opted for a smaller booth to better showcase Pajon’s precious, intricately detailed works. “It's nice when you hit a home run,” Ferrara said.

New York dealer Kinz + Tillou Fine Art sold three of Brian Dettmer’s assemblages of deconstructed Encyclopedia Brittanicas. One — a seven and a half foot tower— sold for $42,000, while two smaller works on paper went for $4,800 each. Nearby at Lyons Wier’s booth, Greg Haberny’s chaotic culture-jamming assemblages were selling like glittery pop-art hotcakes. The artist sold 20 works on the first day, including a striking, impasto-heavy riff on Jasper Johns’s “Flag” for $10,000.

New York galleries flourished in the convenient downtown space. Robert Henry Contemporary sold 12 abstract works on paper, spectral abstractions making use of the color schemes of product packaging and advertisements, priced between $1,600 and $7,000. At the Envoy Enterprises booth, a gestural, semi-abstract nude by Winston Chmielinski sold for between $7,000 and $8,000. Chelsea’s Dillon Gallery sold three of Chiho Akama’s whimsical shoe sculptures — including a stiletto fashioned from a taxidermy chicken — in the $6,000 to $8,000 range.

LES mainstay The Hole sold a new work by Brooklyn-based abstractionist Kadar Brock, a sedimentary composition built up from the deposit of discarded multicolored paint scrapings, priced at $9,000. At 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel’s booth, “The Revolutionary,” a neo-expressionist painting by Armando Mariño, sold to a Brazilian collector in the mid-$20,000 range.

“For young artist, this is a really good fair,” said Ernst Hilger of Vienna’s Hilger BrotKunsthalle. “The Armory is too expensive. If you don’t show the blue chips, you can’t pay for your booth.” Hilger sold a black-and-white, mottled urban landscape by Miha Štrukelj, who represented Slovenia at the 2009 Venice Biennale, for $11,000.

Hilger BrotKunsthalle also scored one of the day’s larger sales. A special project by American-Iranian Baback Golkar, an installation juxtaposing the austerity of modernist architecture and geometric opulence of traditional Persian carpets, titled “Grounds for Standing and Understanding,” 2012, went to a collection in the Middle East for approximately $60,000.

NOMAD Gallery sold two monumental works by Congolese artist Aimé Mpane. “La Nature est Morte,” a large-scale painting depicting a face and skull against a brick wall sold for approximately $40,000 to a Kansas City collector. Miami’s Kavachinina Contemporary nearly sold out of unnerving Veermeeresque portraits by Spanish artist Salustiano. 

Montenegrin artist Aleksandar Duravcevic’s imposing room installation of black charred baroque wood paneling attracted several museum curators. It did not sell on opening day, according to Cologne dealer Stefan Ropke, but the gallery hoped to find a buyer. Priced at $65,000, the installation is based on the artist’s personal experience of war-torn Macedonia. Created specifically for Volta NY, it was built from scratch for the installation and gradually burned over the course of eight days. Galerie Stefan Ropke sold several of Duravcevic’s drawings, priced at $6,500 apiece. 

Many other international dealers reported strong sales. London’s EB&Flow Gallery sold three of William Bradley’s quirky abstract paintings, while the Bogota-based Beatriz Esguerra Gallery saw great interest in Uruguayan artist Carol Young’s mounted ceramic scrolls, one of which sold for $3,500.

To see images, click on the slideshow.