Baked into the name of the Other Art Fair is a fundamental promise, a tempting prospect if you’ve plodded through your share of blue-chip gallery fairs into corporate-coded office buildings: This one’s different.
The original “not like the other girls” of the fair sphere may have a network that spans major cities, including Chicago, London, and Los Angeles, but it still claims to embody a grounded spirit of affordability without sacrificing quality. With general admission on-site tickets at $30 a pop, it bills itself as an approachable, artist-oriented marketplace — including a DJ, a selection of Maman snacks (aka New Yorker catnip), and a “fully stocked bar,” in case thirsty fairgoers were wondering. I ventured into the New York edition’s opening last night to discover whether the fair truly lives up to its name.
To my surprise, I felt immediately at ease in the roomy venue, a creative studio known as ZeroSpace in Downtown Brooklyn. I walked past two poets sitting before typewriters at a “free personalized haikus” table, staged around the corner from a tattoo station and a pop-up selling colorful jackets by artist Anika Ignozzi as calming nondescript beats floated through the air. As families and people of all ages meandered through the fair, I sensed a humming ambiance of genuine curiosity and sincere connection.
Beloved risograph studio Secret Riso Club set up an expansive display of bright posters that caught my eye. Tara Ridgedell, who runs the organization with collaborator Gonzalo Guerrero, told me they regularly frequent book fairs. But this is their first time in an art fair booth — and with enough space for every risograph design they’ve created. One work she and Guerrero collaborated on reads “Ruminate, Recognize, Release, Return.” “That’s the process that I come to of going through your emotion, feeling it, and letting it go,” she said. “And then coming back to yourself.”
A similar sensibility shines through in the dreamy works of Colombian artist Herikita, originally from Cali. Her imaginative illustrations, depicting a cockroach-human figure trapped under an instant noodle cup and a chiva driving along a road filled with multicolored snakes, feel like maps of her brain. “I used to be that child that was just painting the whole time,” she recalled. “I was so quiet. And I was trying to record everything in my mind.”
Another true feast for the eyes was artist Mostafa Fotovat’s deliciously detailed paintings and camel bone boxes in the style of Persian miniatures. He uses a cat-hair paintbrush, which is fine enough to allow for the precision that the designs require, and collaborates with his father and sister. A table lined with delicate boxes also held a magnifying glass for visitors, which he noted he sometimes uses while painting.
The majority of larger works cost thousands of dollars, but several artists were offering prints for as little as $50. London-based Chloe McCarrick’s booth of collages and cyanotypes featured a corner dedicated to batches of small works, including a $175 shimmering portrait on recycled paper in honor of the late NASA programmer Dorothy Vaughan. I even came across a framing station meant for people taking works home with them, a fitting counterpart to the fair’s online resource demystifying the process of buying your first artwork; an artist near the station was patiently walking a visitor through the steps.
Painting and 2D works dominated the booths of the 120 artists, most of whom fall under that nebulous umbrella term “emerging,” though some played with dimension and scale or embarked into augmented reality. Brooklyn-based artist Judith Eloise Hopper presented textured paper collages and landscapes made of moss and clay, mirroring her work with patients at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.
Meanwhile, Davina Hsu, a recent MFA graduate of the School of Visual Arts, described her sculptural felt works as “talismans bringing blessings.” In what is perhaps the best metaphor for artmaking I’ve ever heard, she likened the assemblage process to making a pizza. And just as the pizza form offers a universe of possibilities, so too does the Other Art Fair.