Making Sense of New York City’s Spring Art Fair Season

Nearly a dozen art fairs will pop up across the city loosely timed around Frieze New York. We have the download on the events not to miss.

Frieze New York 2022 at The Shed at Hudson Yards. Photography by Casey Kelbaugh, courtesy of Frieze

If you’re feeling like New York’s art fair landscape is crowded this season, you’re not wrong. Nearly a dozen of them will pop up across the city during Frieze New York (May 2–5), which returns to the Shed at Hudson Yards for its 12th edition. “The sheer number of possible experiences seems to grow exponentially,” Laura Raicovich, the former president and executive director of the Queens Museum, told the New York Times. “You can’t possibly do it all, so just pick a few things that pique your interest and go from there.” Those are wise words to avoid “fairtigue” ahead of the jam-packed NYCxDesign, which will bring hundreds of design events headlined by ICFF and WantedDesign to the city later in the month. We have the download on the events not to miss.

For a rare peek inside a historic Beaux-Arts interior not often glimpsed by New Yorkers, try Esther (May 1–4). Launched by dealers Margot Samel and Olga Temnikova, the fair’s inaugural edition invites 26 international galleries to eschew the white cube and present site-specific projects that respond to the New York Estonian House’s wooden meeting rooms and ornate grand halls. A maverick spirit also pervades the free Fridge Art Fair (May 2–5), which platforms obscure talents who may not be able to afford booths at more robust fairs. Fridge describes its atmosphere as “a party thrown by old friends rather than a high-priced corporate event”—and we’re certain its 10th-anniversary gala, which is being dubbed a “Big Birthday Party” at the 33 Seaport Hotel, will deliver.

The Estonian House, where the newly launched fair Esther will take place. Image courtesy of the Estonian House

While you’re downtown, drop by the Independent Art Fair (May 9–12), which returns to Spring Studios to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Besides hosting 77 exhibitors, the fair will celebrate its history with a special section organized by founder Elizabeth Dee and curator Matthew Higgs. After a successful showing at the newly opened Powerhouse Arts in the fall, The Other Art Fair (May 16–19) is returning to Gowanus, but this time at ZeroSpace. Along with a slew of affordable paintings, photographs, and sculptures from more than 120 artists, visitors can also opt to strip down and have their nude portraits drawn in a private pop-up studio. For a slightly more buttoned-up affair, try TEFAF New York (May 10–14), which collapses 7,000 years of art, jewelry, antiquities, and design into a compelling outing at the Park Avenue Armory.

A few blocks south from Frieze will lead you to the Starrett-Lehigh building, where 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair (May 1–4) will present a star roster of creative talents from Africa and its diaspora across 30 galleries. We’re excited for Yancey Richardson’s presentation of silver prints by Zanele Muholi, who recently published the second volume of their celebrated self-portrait series Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness through Aperture. The South African artist-activist will also star in the gallery’s booth at AIPAD’s Photography Show (April 25–28) at the Park Avenue Armory. Lydia Melamed Johnson, the fair’s director, shared her highlights with Surface exclusively.

The Other Art Fair 2023. Image courtesy of The Other Art Fair
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