Anyone who loves art fairs knows they tend to come in clusters. A big event pitches its tent at a hangar of a building like Pier 94, and within a blink a constellation of little fairs sprouts up, a taxi hop away. In a collector’s version of a perfect storm, several major fairs descend upon Manhattan this month, bringing more than 1,000 dealers and countless enthusiasts to town. Call it March Madness for fairgoers.
The festivities unfurl March 1 through 5 with the eagerly awaited 29th edition of The Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Ave., artdealers.org) showcasing high-end 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century work from members of the Art Dealers Association of America. The 72 participants curate the contents around themes, styles and individual artists. The results can be spectacular. Art greats Édouard Vuillard, Josef Albers and Richard Diebenkorn have solo shows as do contemporary artists Chris Ofili and Huma Bhabha. Look for a triptych created specially for the show by multimedia artist Rodney Graham at 303 Gallery. As for thematic work, Pace/MacGill Gallery explores light as a subject and medium in photographs by Ansel Adams, William Eggleston and Irving Penn. And if you find seldom-seen work irresistible, “The Clove,” a 1936 painted steel metal sculpture by Alexander Calder, is on public view for the first time since 1937.
The Armory Show fills Piers 92 and 94 (711 12th Ave., thearmoryshow.com) March 2 through 5. Yes, you’ll see eye-catching gallery offerings like 11R’s all-female abstract exhibition featuring Marsha Cottrell, Aiko Hachisuka and Jackie Saccoccio, among others. But also look for site-specific installations curated by former Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner and large-scale paintings, performances and installations chosen by Los Angeles County Museum curator Jarrett Gregory. This year’s biggest innovation is the layout; instead of isolating 20th- and 21st-century art in separate piers, the two mix sociably throughout both buildings to alleviate crowding and fair fatigue. Also new: food from local restaurants to fuel all-day fairgoers.
Besides work that’s approved by a board of curators, artists need an additional qualification to show at the Clio Art Fair March 2 through 5 (508 W. 26th St., clioartfair.com): They can’t be represented by a New York gallery. Now in its fourth year, the Anti-Fair for Independent Artists, as it’s also known, lets artists strut their stuff on a New York stage, presenting work in surroundings that resemble a museum or gallery. Among the highlights are art by satirical sculptor Maurizio Cattelan and abstract Italian painter Carla Accardi.
Given their agreeable price point, works on paper are catnip for fledgling collectors. But as a stroll through the 75-plus galleries participating in Art on Paper at Pier 36 (299 South St., thepaperfair.com) March 2 through 5 reveals, paper is a lot more than a backdrop for pencil drawings. Consider “Late in the Season (Lost-lawn chair),” Cybèle Young’s fanciful woven Japanese paper construction that riffs on a ubiquitous element of summer. Works on paper encompass almost anything that’s paper-based—sculpture, collage, painting, photography as well as delicate watercolors by masters like Andrew Wyeth and classic studies for paintings and sculptures.
For history buffs and readers, the ultimate works on paper are rare books. With its admirable track record for attracting world-class dealers, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Ave., nyantiquarianbookfair.com) March 9 through 12 has immersed fairgoers in literary history for 57 years with illuminated manuscripts, maps and ephemera like a pointe shoe worn by Anna Pavlova to a 1937 copy of “The Complete Story of Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’” signed by Walt Disney and 51 of the film’s animators. “We had a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible one year: You can’t get rarer than that,” says the fair’s longtime organizer Sanford Smith, an avid bibliophile.
Calling itself a satellite book fair, the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair sets up shop March 10 at Wallace Hall (980 Park Ave., bookandpaperfairs.com) and offers shuttle buses to the Antiquarian Book Fair a mile away. Yes, you’ll find rare books including a signed copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea” from the author’s personal library, but in recent years ephemera has muscled into the forefront, says fair producer Marvin Getman. “I think it has to do with millennials. Ephemera is priced a little lower than books and can be visually attractive.” Photo albums and even snapshots of anonymous people are in demand, he says.
As befits the world’s largest continent, Asia scores its own 10-day festival of art and culture from March 9 through 18. Timed to coincide with the year’s paramount Asian art auctions, Asia Week (asiaweekny.com) is held under numerous roofs and encompasses five auction houses, galleries showcasing work from 50 topflight international dealers and shows at cultural institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Look for museum-quality work of all periods from India, the Himalayas, Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea.
Fair Month wraps with The Photography Show, the 37th edition of American International Photography Art Dealers’ prestigious showpiece, March 30 through April 2 at Pier 94 (711 12th Ave., aipadshow.com). The world’s longest-running photography show is reveling in its spacious new digs with more than 100 dealers from Tokyo to Tehran. “The space allows us to do almost anything we can envision,” says fair director Catherine Edelman. Expect an enveloping experience with exhibitions by discerning collectors, an area dedicated to book dealers, lectures by photography experts and sit-down restaurants. The show embraces contemporary, modern and 19th-century photography, from Weegee’s 1950 “Nude With Veil” to Adriana Marmorek’s 2016 dress on fi re in “Relic # III — Wedding Gown 2.”
So, grab your walking shoes, you lovers of all things art. The fairs are back in town.