03 Mar 2015

Part one of the New York Art Fair week is descending on the city that never sleeps. Although it may be called Armory Week, with The Armory Show as the main event, there is still plenty to discover. 

One refreshingly alternative art fair is SPRING/BREAK which features curator driven projects that focuses on young artists, installations, and collaborative projects. Now in its fourth edition, SPRING/BREAK has moved from its original Nolita location at the Old School, a former school house which is landmarked, to two floors at the Skylight at Moynihan Station just steps away from the city's central Post Office and the commuter hub, Penn Station. 

ArtRabbit invited SPRING/BREAK's founders, Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori for a Q&A, to give insight into what to expect at this year's fair as well as what it means to be an alternative fair in New York City.  


Q: What inspired you to do the first iteration of SPRING/BREAK?

The Recession. Hundreds of friends emerging into their respective practices (film, visual arts, music, theatre) suddenly getting creative industries across the board unwilling to take risks on emerging artists. We did two exhibitions in the Old Gym on Mulberry Street. And through that, discovered the same owners of the gymnasium had a school they recently had to decommission due to low attendance. Need reciprocated and SPRING/BREAK Art Show was born.


Q: This year's theme is TRANSACTIONS, and is about investigating forms of exchange. Can you speak about some of the exchanges that occur as an alternative fair in context and contrast to more traditional fair models?

The viewer confronts a jamboree environment while entering this year--in high contrast to the historic environment. Attendees can purchase general ticket stubs and exchange these for specific artist performances: JaZoN Frings' own artist-made currency, another artist's henna tattoos, etcetera. Other mediations on exchange this year include a special exhibition of the Alexis Adler Archive--which include photographs of Jean Michel Basquiat while Alexis lived with him in the late 1970s--and the exchange both had between her photographs and his art. In this vein other artist collaborations are featured: by Tracy Emin + Louise Bourgeois, Tyondai Braxton + Grace Villamil, Amadeo Pace + Melissa Godoy Nieto, and Fall on Your Sword + Sarah Bereza, and more. We (Ambre Kelly + Andrew Gori) also did a very transactive performance on the opening, engaging in a traditional marriage ceremony that ended in the signing of city documents for legal union. A gesture about our marriage to the art process at large.

Traditional fair models are also subverted in the basic model of our fair--which is to give curators space in underused New York City buildings free of charge. There's a historic exchange here (we encourage curators to activate spaces as they are and not subject exhibition areas to the whitewall impulse without reason), and there is also a personal exchange, where a kind of barter is at work in the business model. One that also can permit a curator more exhibiting freedom due to a lower overhead. 


Q: Space and history of space seems to be a large influence for SPRING/BREAK, can you talk a little bit about the challenges as well as benefits of your new location?

Typically we are persuading building owners whose own mandate supersedes traditional real estate practice which helps us keep costs low and originality of vision high. Formerly, a Catholic church, and currently a state-run federal building--surprisingly both very different entities saw the benefits of imbuing and supporting a cultural wild card into their space. Challenges are those common to every old building--and unique to each scenario based on the infrastructure of the organization supporting us and their approval process. But ultimately, all hurdles are worth the 'how-high?' 


Q: What are two projects you want to highlight at this year's fair? 

They're all incredible, so we'll just pull the first two projects that come to mind: Marc Azoulay's exhibition FREE has works based on memory and nostalgia by Dirby and Oliver Jeffers--the latter featuring a special performance where Jeffer's classical portrait, painted of a stranger's deceased family member or loved one, is submerged in paint 3/4 of the way. A nice visual articulation of the facsimile of memory and its celebrations and shortcomings as a transaction between present and past selves. 

Dustin Yellin's curation of artist collective Bazaar Teens transforms the old post office police interrogation headquarters within the James A Farley post office into a meditation on the exchange between body and environment, often incorporating the pedestrian to signal the organic. This includes a bread and coffee climate control, a comprehensive installation sourcing objects that could have come from the location (but did not), and paintings made from $10,000 worth of bills--woodchipped into artworks to be sold to raise money for art-career-interested teenagers.