NADA, TEFAF, Frieze: A Roundup of New York’s Art Fairs

For art enthusiasts and collectors — even seasoned ones — New York City’s art scene can be overwhelming in May.

“The sheer number of possible experiences seems to grow exponentially,” especially art fairs, said Laura Raicovich, former president and executive director of the Queens Museum, who recently helped found the Francis Kite Club, a social club and collective art space in the East Village of Manhattan. “You can’t possibly do it all, so just pick a few things that pique your interest and go from there.”

Raicovich plans to check out Esther, a new fair that this year runs from May 1-4, and will participate in a symposium at the Independent art fair. “We will be addressing the very real rise in censorship and authoritarian repression,” said Raicovich, author of the book “Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest.”

Here is a rundown of some of the May fairs that will offer visitors a range of encounters, from a glimpse at rare treasures from antiquity to an opportunity to take home nude portraits of themselves. (All but one are in Manhattan.)

May 1–4 at Chelsea Industrial, 538 West 28th Street.

Future Fair offers a mix of hyperlocal, national and international galleries, as well as a range of established and new. This year, there will be several from Montreal and three new ones from Oslo. But since the fair’s founding in 2020, it has rejected business as usual. Its profit-sharing model has provisions to include galleries as shareholders. The fair has also long promoted galleries that are owned (or partly owned) by women, which this year constitute 75 percent of the exhibitors. The 2024 Talks Lounge will host candid conversations with professionals who, the fair organizers say, “peek behind the curtain” to offer practical advice for navigating the art world.

May 1–4, at the Starrett-Lehigh Building, 255 11th Avenue.

Specializing in contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, whose name reflects the continent’s 54 countries, is held annually in London; New York; and Marrakesh, Morocco; with pop-ups in cities like Paris and Hong Kong. This year’s New York edition will feature the work of 74 artists from more than 30 galleries, representing cities that include Lagos, Nigeria; Lausanne, Switzerland; and Miami and London.

Future Fair and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will offer a joint ticket package.

May 1-5, at 33 Seaport Hotel New York, 33 Peck Slip.

With a name that reflects a wordplay on Frieze, the free Fridge Art Fair is held in donated or discounted spaces. “The idea was to create a fun, intimate art fair,” said Eric Ginsburg, Fridge’s founder, that would give visibility to more worthy artists. The goal is an inclusive event featuring artists, galleries and collectives, he added, “but mostly artists, who normally could not afford or might not be accepted at other art fairs or even venues. In many ways, we are the little fair that could.”

May 2-5, 520 West 24th Street.

Contemporary work that showcases independent artists without exclusive gallery representation in New York — including those who are emerging — will be featured at the Clio Art Fair, which takes its name from the Greek muse of history and the poetry she inspired. Some 250 works by 50 artists will be on view. Highlights include a section titled “Why War?,” with a collaborative mixed-media work, “Sweet Dream,” by the American artist Ola Rondiak, who has Ukrainian heritage, and the Russian American artist Raisa Nosova; and a performance piece, “No Honor in Killing,” by the Pakistani American artist Qinza Najm.

May 2–5, at 548 West, 548 West 22nd Street.

The nonprofit New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) will present works from 92 galleries and art spaces, including 34 first-time exhibitors, at the 10th edition of NADA New York. Its “Curated Spotlight” will feature five galleries that show and support underrepresented artists. This year, guests can sign up for a guided tour led by the architect and designer Komal Kehar. As NADA has maintained its representation of emerging talents in both the gallery business and in art-making, Raicovich said, it is “a great fair to sit down and talk to artists and gallerists in their booths.”

May 10-14, at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue.

TEFAF New York, presented annually by the European Fine Art Foundation, will showcase Modern and contemporary art, jewelry, antiquities and design, across 7,000 years of art history, from nearly 90 international galleries. Objects set in curated spaces in the historic Armory’s 16 period rooms range from treasures from the ancient world, like “Kore” (Greek for “young girl”), a Roman marble sculpture dating from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D., to a surprising, antiquity-inspired oblong bronze cup by the 20th-century artist Alberto Giacometti, better known for his paintings and sculptures.

May 16–19, at ZeroSpace, 337-345 Butler Street.

Thousands of original paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed-media artworks by more than 120 artists will be on sale during the Other Art Fair Brooklyn. Items are priced from $100 to $10,000. Particularly intrepid attendees can have an unusual experience during the “Get Nude Get Drawn” interactive project. Participants — one at a time — will strip down and be drawn by multiple artists in a private pop-up studio on-site. Participants can keep their nude portraits.

May offers many events beyond the fairs.

These include the Public Art Fund’s debut of “Before the End,” four large-scale bronze sculptures at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The work of Huma Bhabha, an artist born in Pakistan and now based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., they recall ancient effigies.

Hundreds of design events, from exhibitions and trade shows to talks and tours, will also take place from May 16-23 during the annual citywide NYCxDesign Festival.

Taking Venice,” a new documentary by Amei Wallach that opens on May 17 at the IFC Center, details the story behind rumors that the 1964 Venice Biennale was rigged so that Robert Rauschenberg would win the grand prize.

(For additional ideas, NYC Tourism + Conventions has a Spring 2024 Arts Guide.)

“May is also high time for fund-raising galas, which means a certain social set gets to dress up and go out on the town,” said Raicovich, who recommends as an alternative the People’s Ball, Brooklyn Public Library’s free annual public celebration on May 5.

“This beautiful and extremely fashionable party is an inclusive space to strut your stuff,” she said, adding: “They set up a runway in the gorgeous lobby of the Central Library. The style is fierce.”

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