For the past year X Initiative has served as a galvanic art space for artists, curators, and dealers, turning Dia's cavernous former Chelsea headquarters into a site of experimentation during a time of economic upheaval and transition in the art world. Now that the project is about to reach the end of its run next week, art dealer and X Initiative founder Elizabeth Dee plans to once again make use of the largely-unused building to test out a different model: a temporary hybrid space that is part collaborative exhibition venue, part art bazaar.
Lasting only four days in the first week of March - to coincide with the Armory and ADAA art fairs and the Whitney Biennial - the project, called "Independent," is the brainchild of Dee along with Darren Flook of London's Hotel space, White Columns director Matthew Higgs, and art adviser Thea Westreich, It will involve 34 galleries, nonprofits, and other participants from around the world--ranging from Berlin's Galerie Ben Kaufmann and Dee's own gallery to Artists Space and alternative art publication Farimani--with each contributing independent curated exhibitions that will be spread throughout the building, creating a warren of art environments that will be customized to each exhibitor's needs. Whereas X Initiative was made possible by a one-year, rent-free lease from the building's owners, this time the organizers have to pay rent, the costs of which will be passed down to participants in the form of an entry fee. Much of the work on display will be for sale, some of it will not.
But don't call it an art fair. "Please don't say the F word," Dee told ARTINFO. "That's absolutely not the intention of this project." Instead she describes the arrangement as an exhibition space working on a cooperative model. "Every participant knows how much the rent is and knows what the expenses are," says Dee, who declined to say how much she is paying to use the building. "There's no application process or governing body per se--it's by invitation and through discussions. We've invited people to be part of it and they've invited others, and it's part of the conversational nature of what we think needs to occur right now in terms of an exhibition platform. It's very grassroots." In many ways "Independent" shares the spirit of "No Soul for Sale," the overflowing exhibition of international nonprofit spaces that took place at X Initiative last summer--only with higher production values.
"We thought very clearly about the needs of individuals in the art world, and that involves gallerists, that involves independent curators, that involves nonprofit organizations around the world: what are the needs right now in terms of collective exhibition formats, in terms of forums, in terms of dialogue?" Dee says. "It seemed clear that the question is somewhat malleable right now because of the climate, and there's a desire from every aspect of the art world to explore that further."
As for the future of X Initiative, which Dee ran with a top-flight advisory board of international artists and curators? "It's going to go to sleep for a while," Dee says. The only project planned for 2010 is a book, due out in the fall, that will recount the activities of X Initiative though oral histories of visitors' impressions of the space, a timeline in image form, transcripts of the events, and texts commissioned from various board members and collaborators. "It's going to be a real time capsule of the year," Dee says.