Most eyes may be on Randall’s Island this week, with the opening of Frieze Art Fair in New York, but a new art and design presence making its debut in Brooklyn on 3 May promises to be the breath of fresh air that fair fans are always on the look out for.
Object & Thing is a new exhibition concept and commercial platform founded by Abby Bangser, formerly the artistic director of Frieze Art Fairs for the Americas and Asia. It will present a curated selection of 200 art and design objects gleaned from 32 of the world’s leading galleries known for their specialty in contemporary and 20th-century art and design, in one unified setting. The singular environment, which has been designed by the fair’s inaugural artistic director, Rafael de Cárdenas, aspires to eliminate the divide between art and design, while creating an accessible backdrop that fosters appreciation for both established and emerging artists.
‘I really started from a conceptual desire to bring together both art and design without hierarchy between the disciplines,’ says Bangser. ‘I thought objects were a perfect way to do this in that both artists and designers have object making practices. I also found that object-based works were not frequently exhibited in both commercial and museum settings, that can often prioritise paintings and furniture. This, of course, makes a lot of sense when you think about the scale of exhibition spaces and the financial model behind art fair participation in renting booth space.’
What promises to be most impactful is the visual backdrop that Cárdenas has created – a multifaceted sculptural installation that will house the objects in the fair’s 5,000 sq ft venue at 99 Scott. The exhibition design has facilitated the creation of thematic groupings and pairings, which Cárdenas and Bangser both hope will surprise and leave an impression on their visitors.
‘We have “islands”, that we are calling the display tables, of vessels, nautical themed works, artists’ seating, games, groupings by colour, by material, objects on top of objects, and more,’ Bangser reveals. ‘[Having one environment has] also allowed us to do away with booths and ensure a gallery participation model without fees (we instead retain a commission on sales). Additionally, galleries do not need to send staff as our team will be facilitating all sales.’
Special consideration has also been placed on the environmental impact of staging temporary installations and fairs. In fabricating the installation for this year’s edition, the team have also ensured that the materials used can be saved and repurposed for next year’s iteration as well.
Bangser’s insightful approach doesn’t just build on her experience and lessons learned at Frieze. She also shrewdly assembled an advisory committee for Object & Thing, which includes members such as curator Glenn Adamson, gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Martino Gamper and de Cárdenas, amongst others, to provide valuable insight. ‘I had a lot of conversations with friends, colleagues, artists, and especially dealers who exhibited interest in a new type of model,’ she says.
‘Our object-thing.com website will even allow for online sales of the works in the central exhibition during the weekend of the fair,’ says Bangser. ‘Onsite, the works in their groupings and juxtapositions, will invite viewers to really think differently about established artists’ practices or discover new artists entirely.’