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Christie’s website brought down by hackers days before marquee spring auctions
May 9, 2024

In the 15 years since the fair launched, Independent (until 12 May) has cultivated a reputation as being the New York fair to discover new artists and work. Thursday’s invite-only preview at Spring Studios in Tribeca was described by several attendees and participants as a “breath of fresh air” in the middle of a busy—and, at times, repetitive—New York spring art season.

The highest-priced transaction reported during the preview (9 May) was a $115,000 Milo Matthieu painting sold by Miami Beach gallery Jupiter to a New York collection. A work by Uman presented by Nicola Vassell Gallery for 15×15: Independent 2010-2024—a selling exhibition within the fair marking its 15th anniversary—sold for $100,000.

The New York gallery Charles Moffett, showing at the fair for the first time, sold out its stand of new paintings by Lily Stockman during the preview. The dozen paintings ranged in price from $20,000 to $90,000, according to the gallery.

A view of Copperfield and Charles Moffet galleries’ respective stands.

The Tribeca-based gallery Broadway sold all 11 of the works it brought by Jessie Henson within a range of $18,000 and $30,000. Grimm, which also has a space a few blocks away, sold all four paintings by Matthias Franz displayed in its stand priced between $22,000 and $27,500, along with a fifth work offsite. Fredericks & Frieser sold out its stand of seven Caroline Absher paintings priced between $15,000 and $20,000. Margot Samel was well on its way to finding homes for all the works in its solo stand dedicated to Olivia Jia, with eight paintings sold and one on hold by an institution. The price range for the works was from $6,000 to $18,000.

The Connecticut-based gallery James Barron Art sold a sculpture by Beverly Pepper at $55,000. From their joint stand, Fraenkel Gallery and Ryan Lee Gallery placed two Kota Ezawa works with two museums, the galleries said: a video work for $45,000, and a work on paper for $15,000. Off Paradise sold two large urethane resin casts by Maximilian Schubert to a private collection, both in the $35,000 to $40,000 range. Three smaller versions sold for $10,000 each. The London gallery Maximillian William sold two works by Reginald Sylvester II for $35,000 and $25,000. Charlie James Gallery sold six works by Los Angeles-based Danie Cansino inspired by her studies of the Baroque artist Caravaggio in the $12,000 to $35,000 price range.

Parisian gallery Ciaccia Levi sold two paintings by Swiss French artist Romane de Watteville out of its solo stand dedicated to her work for €4,500 and €7,000, respectively. The gallery also sold a large-scale triptych by De Watteville located in the gallery’s Paris space for €23,000. All three works were sold to new private clients based in the US, according to Ciaccia Levi.

Charlie James Gallery from Los Angeles brought work by artist Danie Cansino.

Prices shift upwards

A survey of this edition’s 89 exhibitors taken by organisers before the fair began found that about 28% of the works being offered in the fair are priced between $20,000 and $50,000. That represents a large jump from the 2023 iteration of the fair, when the biggest share of works (39%) were priced at $5,000 or less. It’s a surprising figure considering there is still a considerable amount of trepidation surrounding the art market, with interest rates remaining high and collectors reining in spending, particularly on speculative segments like ultra-contemporary work.

Independent’s organisers speculate the shift in price could be tied to artists returning to full-scale production after several years of creating smaller works during Covid-19 lockdowns, and that the numbers reflect the increase in the physical size of works coming to market. It could also be that the New York art market is past what the fair’s organisers refer to as an “economic reset”, and that dealers feel more confident to return to setting higher prices.

“The New York art market is so resilient and so concentrated. It’s [similar to] how Wall Street always reacts before Main Street,” says Independent co-founder and longtime New York art dealer Elizabeth Dee. “We reacted in the first and second quarter [of 2023] to the market we knew was coming. We’ve adjusted, contracted, but we haven’t had a recession. We needed that correction.”

This year, about half of the artists whose works are being shown at the fair are on display for the first time in New York, despite some already having had a show at the Tate Modern in London or represented their country in the Venice Biennale, Dee says. Independent’s organisers also push dealers to make inventory available at the fair for new collectors to purchase—rather than relying on pre-arranged sales and deals with existing clients. Galleries at Independent make the majority of their sales to new buyers, Dee says, which is becoming more and more rare at major fairs.

“We’re doing more in that regard than regular fairs, [where] there’s a big dependency on your own clientele,” Dee says. “There’s less meeting of new collectors every year for these, especially the biggest fairs. It’s a huge, ongoing problem. I always said, ‘If our numbers get down to that, we shouldn’t be here, we’re not serving anybody’.”

Because exhibitors are invited, rather than selected through an open call application process like at many larger fairs, Dee says Independent’s four-person curatorial team brings “a real sensitivity” to conversations about what the fair will show. Work needs to be worth investing in, the timing needs to make sense and selections need to benefit from the market.

“We’re not selling real estate here in the way the other fairs are,” Dee says.

Three works by Anastasia Komar at the Management stand at Independent.

An ‘adrenaline shot in the arm’

New York gallery Management’s stand at the fair is dedicated to the work of Anastasia Komar, who combines painting and 3D printing to create sculpture-like canvases with sculptural components inspired by bioengineering. Her work has garnered an “incredible amount of interest from high-quality collectors”, according to founder and director Anton Svyatsky. He chose to take part in Independent because, he says, it’s the best fair in New York.

“It’s not so much about putting up things that people know on the wall and selling it, it’s more about the conversations and growing the career of an artist,” Svyatsky says.

Management opened in Chinatown in late 2021. Since then, the New York art market has experienced exceptional fluctuations, Svyatsky says. Late 2023 and early 2024 have been “rough” for many dealers, he adds—indeed, a number of influential downtown galleries have recently closed, including JTT, Queer Thoughts, Helena Anrather and Denny Gallery.

“In terms of the way the market’s behaving, people are much pickier,” Svyatsky says. “People have lost confidence in their ability to discern quality. Whatever’s coming next should reintroduce their confidence.”

David Nolan’s stand is dedicated to large canvases by Iraqi-American artist Vian Sora.

Longtime New York dealer David Nolan chose Independent to debut paintings by Iraqi American artist Vian Sora, who grew up in Baghdad before relocating to Kentucky. The paintings at the stand are priced between $20,000 and $42,000, roughly the same price range as nearly one-third of the works at Independent this year. Nolan says that earlier in his career, he may have made the paintings more expensive. He says his goal is to place work in the right collections and encourage collectors to follow a young artist throughout their career. Nolan says he would warn younger dealers to not be too aggressive with raising prices and chasing sales, particularly in the current market.

“People are feeling cautiously optimistic,” Nolan said before Independent’s preview. “Collectors I’ve spoken to, and a few curators, are expecting that Independent will be like a sort of adrenaline shot in the arm.”

  • Independent, until 12 May, Spring Studios, New York

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