If New York’s two biggest art fairs, the Armory Show and Frieze, skew blue-chip, the Art Dealers Association of America’s Art Show has a much different air about it. Mid-size galleries take the spotlight, often bringing with them work by under-recognized stars still awaiting their due.
This year’s edition, which opened with a preview benefiting the Henry Street Settlement, offered more of that, bringing with it plenty of discoveries and lots of understated art to admire. Bringing together 78 exhibitors from its national membership to the Park Avenue Armory in the Upper East Side, the aisles were thrumming as visitors strolled among the booths.
Below, a look at the six best booths at the fair, which runs until Sunday.
Peter Bradley at Karma
Now in his 80s, Peter Bradley might best be known for having organized “The De Luxe Show” in 1971 in Houston. Backed by patrons John and Dominique de Menil, it is often considered the first racially integrated art exhibition in the United States. (In 2021, Karma in New York and Parker Gallery in Los Angeles staged a tribute to the exhibition, bringing together many of the original works.) Yet Bradley has had a prolific career since then, and Karma has brought together several recent paintings by the artist, as well as two sculptures. Though Bradley has been working in sculpture for much of his career, his art in this mode has rarely been exhibited. The star of this booth is a mixed-media yellow work that includes pieces of broken wood, components of a toy bulldozer, and a silver saw.
Kurt Kauper at Marc Selwyn Fine Art and Ortuzar Projects
The most talked-about work at the Art Show this year might just be a 2002 painting by Kurt Kauper of a nude Cary Grant, who poses with one arm leaning on the mantel of a lit chimney and the other on his hip. A while back, the painting appeared kitschy; it turns out it has actually aged very well. Kauper’s recent output is strong, too. There’s something absolutely beguiling of Men in the Park (2021), an oval-shaped canvas that could be read as a contemporary, and overtly queer, take on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863). Kauper has flipped the composition, so that now, only one figure is completely clothed, and he reclines on the grass at the right side of the painting, instead of the left. A second figure lays naked and face down, while a third, also nude, is caught mid-swing holding a baseball bat.
Charmion von Wiegand at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
“Interior painting starts with the sign. In its initial states it is exorcism—a means of conquering the unknown,” Charmion von Wiegand wrote in a 1977 artist statement. Earlier this year, von Wiegand was the subject of a survey at the Kunstmuseum Basel, which was on view during Art Basel. For those who didn’t make the trek to Switzerland, the late artist’s longtime US representative, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, has brought together a sampling of abstract works from across her career from the 1940s through 1970s. These jewel-like works, which synthesize and reinterpret Mondrian’s theories on Neoplasticism, are wonderful to behold. The booth’s bright yellow carpeting makes them look even better.
Arvie Smith at Monique Meloche
Portland-based octogenarian Arvie Smith isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. In this suite of new paintings, Smith takes on “what’s going on in the world, the things I’m concerned about,” as he said during the VIP benefit. This showing at the Art Show is his first in more than 30 years; his mentor at MICA, artist Grace Hartigan, organized the last presentation of his art, in 1992. Among his concerns, he said, are “my future, the future of the world, the future of Black people.” In the booth’s center is Black Athena (2023), a dense composition that features Donald Trump dressed as McDonald’s Hamburglar, seen behind the titular Black Athena, mounted on horse; in the right corner is Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas holding a bag of money.
Tavares Strachan at Marian Goodman Gallery
Near the fair’s entrance, Marian Goodman Gallery has a stunning presentation of closely watched artist Tavares Strachan. At the booth’s center are three ceramic sculptures, displayed atop black-painted plinths resembling storage crates, that build upon his ongoing The Encyclopedia of Invisibility project, which aims to compile countless people who have been left out the historical canon, specifically the Encyclopedia Britannica. These sculptures are part homage to important figures—Marcus Garvey, Andrea Crabtree, and the Oba of Benin—but they are also self-portraits, with Strachan merging his own likeness into these representations.
Taizo Kuroda at Yoshii
The most meditative booth at the Art Show comes via a Yoshii, which has brought white porcelain works by late Japanese ceramicist Taizo Kuroda, who died in 2021. The booth’s highlights are sculptures that were actually failed experiments—works that broke in the kiln. But with Kuroda’s exacting eye and rigor, these selected pieces shine as brightly as any of his successful ceramics might have.