BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

Alix Dana. Photo: Charlie Rubin
Alix Dana. Photo: Charlie Rubin

Tell us a little bit about the history of the fair?

Independent was founded in 2010 by gallerists, for gallerists. Instead of a trade fair, Independent aims to approximate what artists can do in galleries, and therefore reflects the gallery landscape. Founders Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook wanted to create a space that facilitates a dialogue between historical, established, and emerging practices, while also embracing more maverick positions. Many galleries present solo, two-person, or historical shows, resulting in an experience that more closely resembles a biennial or museum presentation than a traditional fair.

For the first six years, Independent took place at the Dia building in Chelsea and in 2016 moved to Spring Studios. Even in a larger, light-filled space, we still cap the fair at approximately 50 participants and rotate gallerists year to year in order to maintain an atmosphere of discovery and intimacy. Now in our ninth edition, Independent remains a must-visit for collectors and curators—and we especially relish seeing artists who debut at Independent featured in museum and gallery shows in the years that follow.

Installation view at Independent 2017
Installation view at Independent 2017
Installation view at Independent 2017
Installation view at Independent 2017

How do you, as fair director, ensure that the event stays contemporary and current in the fast-paced world that is the art market?

We really listen to our galleries and the artists with whom they work. Gallerists are in daily conversation with artists, and are the beating heart of the art-world ecosystem. Because of the caliber of visitors to Independent, our galleries recognize that Independent is an ideal venue to debut an emerging artist or offer a rediscovery of a forgotten artist. Therefore, our relevancy and "heat" come, first and foremost, from the thoughtful presentations of our galleries. Independent tends to avoid gimmicks or marketing tools and defer to the quality of our content. That said, we are excited to introduce a sound and video program to this year's edition of Independent, curated by David Gryn and featuring audio and film works by artists represented by Independent galleries, which will fill the common spaces of Independent and Spring.

Installation view at Independent 2017
Installation view at Independent 2017

Is there something in this year’s program that you are particularly looking forward to? What do the artworks being presented at this year's fair reveal about the current trends and market?

I'm really excited for the focus on ceramics at this year's edition, with lush, sexy large-scale vessels by Ruby Neri at David Kordansky Gallery and a site-specific tiled installation by Elisabeth Kley at CANADA. Kerry Schuss will present an exhibition that encapsulates Independent's ethos: paintings by the folk artist Aaron Birnbaum—a Brooklyn tailor who took up painting in his retirement and only received critical attention late in life—curated by the contemporary artist Matt Connors, introducing an artist who worked outside of the mainstream in a contemporary context. There's a preponderance of work by great women artists in this year's edition, and I'm especially looking forward to seeing the work of three Scandinavian artists at STANDARD (OSLO): textiles Ann Cathrin November Høibo, paintings by Anna Zacharoff, and sculptures Nina Beier. There will also be a very interesting site-specific project by artist Cynthia Daignault with first-time participant The Sunday Painter from London.

What advice do you have for the collectors that will be attending the fair this year?

Take your time and really talk to the dealers about the work. Every presentation at Independent is tightly curated and has a rich story that the galleries are so excited to share. We are always gratified by how many collectors linger at Independent—it's a space and viewing experience that people like to savor. (And get there early!)

Installation view at Independent 2017
Installation view at Independent 2017

In addition to Independent New York, what exhibition or event is on your “must-see” list?

Calvin Marcus opening at the new CLEARING uptown on Tuesday March 6, “Between the Waters” opening at the Whitney Museum on March 9, as well as current exhibitions at NY galleries such as Marina Pinksy at 303 Gallery, Deana Lawson at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

All images courtesy Independent

More Information on Independent

Insiders (67)

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums