How do we tell the history of 20th century art, and when does contemporary art really begin?
In September, Independent Art Fair will launch Independent 20th Century, a new annual fair exclusively devoted to works made between 1900 and 1999, in the hope of offering new and perhaps unexpected perspectives on the past and, therefore, on the here.
The inaugural edition, curated with the fair’s longtime curatorial advisor, artist Matthew Higgs, promises to be a promising kaleidoscopic one, with 32 galleries showcasing 70 artists, including 22 focused, solo or duo presentations, as well only special projects commissioned especially for the just.
So why restrict the gaze to the 20th century? Higgs believes the reconsideration of the recent past is one of the major curatorial developments of our time, noting both the significant number of deceased artists chosen by curator Cecilia Alemani for the current Venice Biennale, as well as in the MoMA PS1’s most recent edition of its “Inquiry into Greater New York,” which is “typically ultra-contemporary,” he said.
“It’s an elastic idea of what constitutes the contemporary that’s very compelling,” continued Higgs, who thinks this reconsideration of what makes up the past began with Documenta 10 in 1997. -he declares.
As for the September debut, Higgs has a few presentations that he’s particularly excited about. “One of the most interesting exhibitors is a new nonprofit called Soft Network, which taps into the zeitgeist to work with artists, estates and foundations,” he said. Soft Network presents the work of American artist of Haitian origin Paul Gardère (1944-2011). Gardère trained in New York before returning to live and work in Haiti between 1978 and 1984, where he began to juxtapose Haitian themes and symbols with images from the Western art canon.
He’s also excited about Diane Rosenstein’s solo presentation of Los Angeles-based artist Joe Ray (b. 1944). The African-American artist began his career in the 1960s, after serving in the Vietnam War, and immersed himself in the emerging Los Angeles art scene. “He was part of CalArts’ first graduating class in 1973, mentored by Nam June Paik and John Baldessari,” Higgs noted. Ray was also a founding member of Studio Z, a collective of black artists engaged in performative actions around Los Angeles. Ray’s early works include translucent sculptures that incorporate plastics and cast resin as part of Southern California’s Light and Space movement, but Ray never limited his practice to one medium, exploring photography, sculpture, painting and performance.
Among other promising proposals, Vito Schnabel Gallery will mount Francesco Clemente’s lesser known “Dormiveglia” series of nine monumental paintings from 1998. The works stand over 10 feet tall and depict fragmented goddesses standing on spikes between sky and sea or land, sometimes merging with animal forms or the elements The title of the series comes from an Italian expression designating the state between sleep and wakefulness, dream and reality.These cryptic and metamorphic visions recall the symbols of the tarot and testify to Clemente’s long-standing interest in the arcana and the sacred, predating the prevalence of these themes in art today.
Higgs said Independent has long focused on breaking down traditional hierarchies between emerging and blue-chip galleries, and that the new fair’s reexamination of what’s contemporary furthers that ethos, while offering a platform for new galleries that might not have generally been suitable for The Independent’s May edition.
“We have a real opportunity to engage in conversations between works from the early 20th century, works from the post-war period, and then works from the recent past. This collapse of the idea of the historical and the porous nature of what constitutes the contemporary is very exciting,” Higgs concluded. For those unable to visit the fair in person, Independent 20th Century continues the the fair’s adoption of a hybrid model and will open online on September 1, a week before the physical fair. The content-rich digital platform will also feature 15 new editorials offering in-depth historical and research perspectives on the featured works.
Independent 20th Century will take place September 8-11, 2022 at the Battery Maritime Building in Cipriani, South Street, New York.
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