Instagram-Ready PULSE Looks To Surprise You
By Sarah Cascone
As snow fell in New York, art collectors were undeterred by the wintry weather, turning out in droves for today's PULSE preview brunch at the Metropolitan Pavilion (see PULSE New York Will Host 55 Galleries During Armory Week).
Now in its 10th year, PULSE is a satellite fair that has come into its own, anchored by a selection of single-artist booths that feel more like mini–museum shows than anything that you would find at a commercially driven fair.
"The galleries have really stepped it up with tightly curated booths," director Helen Toomer told artnet News. Though this is the third PULSE edition that she's overseen since taking the reins early last year, she's quick to point out how crazy it's been doing three fairs in less than a year. Compared to her first New York fair this past spring, she said, "This really feels cohesively more like my vision."
Key to that vision are the 14 PULSE prize nominees, selected from the fair's single-artist presentations. The buzz during this morning's preview was largely about Ye Hongxing's astonishing sticker paintings, at Miami's Art Lexing gallery. The centerpiece was a giant multicolored mandala, with a pagoda of toy animals rising from the center of the flat work. Ye sent over a batch of extra animals, allowing fair-goers to interact with the art by adding figures to the installation.
"She buys the stickers wholesale in China," explained gallerist Lexing Zhang, who declined to estimate how many were in each piece; clearly it was a huge number.
Other impressive PULSE Prize contenders included tactile fiber works at Philadelphia's InLiquid from Melissa Maddonni, who was on-hand knitting additions to an ongoing work memorializing each of the over 300 children who have already died from gun violence this year. On view at London's Cynthia Corbett Gallery were gorgeous photographs from Italy's Fabiano Parisi, who has spent the last seven years traveling the world, documenting contemporary ruins. Sienna Patti, of Lenox, Massachusetts, offered striking, almost photograph-like charcoal drawings from Jonathan Wahl. The winner, based on anonymously submitted votes from four judges, will be announced Saturday.
Where some art fairs seem like a maze (see I Got Lost in the Art at Art Basel in Miami Beach!), PULSE's easy-to-navigate layout makes it next-to-impossible to miss anything. "We call it 'the Snake,'" Toomer told artnet News. "There's one way in and one way out, so no booth is overlooked." The layout also incorporated less boxy booths with wider angles, contributing to a more open feel and allowing the viewer to encounter works from a variety of sight lines.
One prominently displayed piece is The Garden of Emoji Delights, a massive Carla Gannis triptych, the artist's contemporary take on the famous Earthly Delights Hieronymous Bosch painting. The cheerfully colorful emoji characters, like the figures from the Bosch original, are engaged in any number of hedonistic activities. Impressive in both its scale and its content, the work is, of course, Instagram-ready.
PULSE also packs a baldfaced appeal to social media addicts with a photo booth fromProject Art—but you'll be donning that feather boa and goofy hat for a good cause: the organization is dedicated to raising awareness about the deleterious effect the lack of an arts education has on students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Each photo will be posted on Instagram with the caption "Art is a right."
Throughout the fair, energy was high among dealers, who were excited to be showing during Armory Week once again. (PULSE has taken place in May the past three years, seePULSE New York Moves to Armory Week for 2015.) "I think it's a much better timing," longtime PULSE exhibitor Tatyana Okshteyn, of Brooklyn's Black & White Gallery, told artnet News. "I see more relevant people, even just this morning."
To Toomer's mind, Armory Week just makes sense. "The art world comes out of hibernation and wants to buy art!" she exclaimed.
If PULSE's central location isn't enough of an incentive (and who wants to trek out to the waterfront in this snow?), Toomer has a pretty good pitch: "Just come and be surprised. You're going discover great artists here!"