How the Hudson Valley consolidates its position as New York’s friendliest art hub

In its sophomore year, New York’s first campaign art gathering, Upstate Art Weekend, appears to have gained traction.

With more than 60 attendees, along with local businesses on board to support, the regional connection point for galleries, institutions and art spaces was set to take shape when it opened on Friday. But even its founder, Helen Toomer, who runs the Catskills StoneLeaf Retreat with her husband, was surprised when 250 people showed up at her space’s inaugural event. (including an New York State soldier who showed up to snoop.)

Stoneleaf Retreat isn’t exactly on Main Street in Hudson or Poughkeepsie, so it looks like the secret is out: Artistic weekend in the upstate is a thing, and his neighbors have noticed.

Stoneleaf wasn’t the only place inundated with crowds. Frontcountry Catskill kicked off the weekend with an exhibition of 100 artists (from 81 participating galleries), curated by the New Dealers Art Alliance (NADA) and curated by JAG Projects. When 5,500 visitors walked through the gates, it “blew up everything we expected from the water,” said a representative from the Catskill Contemporary Art Complex.

Dana Robinson works at NADA x Foreland.

“We had an incredible turnout from Friday to Sunday,” said dealer Alexander Gray of his Germantown gallery. “I’ve seen people I didn’t expect to see, from collectors to art advisors to artists. He went through the whole range. Meanwhile, perpetually energetic artist and gallery owner Liz Nielsen and her partner Carolina Wheat, who together run the Elijah Wheat Showroom in Newburgh, said: “We’ve been busy all weekend. The guests kept coming until 7pm every night!

While “large crowds” may be a relative term in the upstate – it wasn’t Alexander McQueen at the Met or Kusama at David Zwirner, after all – the event is also free of traffic a la Hamptons and of the drama of the New York VIP lounges and gala. There was a sense of momentum – not chaos – upward last weekend, where instead of meaningful jetset, there were well-attended openings, a party or two, and a multitude of projects, of experiences and experiences in atypical settings. (It’s not that there weren’t a few art advisers with expensive handbags and types of artists from Brooklyn also in attendance.)

“The ambiance is a community-centric event, an event of exchange, creativity, relationships and conversations,” said Gray.

Dolly Bross Geary, who opened an outpost in Millerton from its Geary operation on the Lower East Side last August, added: “All the things people say about the upstate are true.

An artistic tradition from the north of the state

Nick cave Rosary at Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

“Upstate”, which, while its extensive contact details are still confusing, check out this card as an indication, is not only a pandemic phenomenon. The history of art and artists is long in the Hudson Valley, and the current art scene is shaping up to be a third wave of the movement, or what was once called “a school.”

The first, of course, is the Hudson River School, with artists such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church. The second is made up of artists’ colonies from the 60s and 70s, including Brydcliffe and Archipenko School. What is happening now started to materialize in the “times before”, but in these “unprecedented times” of almost two years it has exceeded most expectations.

While a lot of premier collectors have second (or third) residences in the Hudson Valley, many dealers say the most dynamic collection base operates at lower levels of the market.

“They’re not going to spend six or seven figures on anything,” said Franklin Parrasch, who has become a bit of a northern art gimmick thanks to the gallery he runs at Beacon with. Nicelle Beauchene, Parts and Labor, as well as his pop-space in Kingston, Airfield, which he founded with Anna Gray (sister of Alex) and Carolyn Ramo of Artadia. “In the upstate, you can run a gallery by selling $ 5,000 of art,” he said.

“Do I really want to go to the Hamptons, which are more remote, already packed with galleries and more interested in commercial offers?” ” noted Iliya Fridman, whose Lower East Side Fridman Gallery space moved to Beacon this summer. “The gallery was at a crossroads and was looking to expand,” he said. “It doesn’t add much to have a second space on the” same street ” [in New York City]. It’s much more interesting talking to a new audience and seeing what the artist community looks like and what interests them.

“As you walk through the palisades,” Fridman added, “the air changes and the taste changes.”

Another new face around these pieces is Tribeca-based dealer Andrew Kreps. “Aspen or the Hamptons is really a different animal than the upstate,” he said. “There is a freedom to do things that are open to a wider audience. Whether it’s studios or galleries, you can just experiment.

Now, Kreps and his inner-city cohorts Anton Kern, Bortolami, and James Cohan, along with the Mexico City Kurimanzutto Gallery, have joined forces to purchase the old Ockawamick High School, built in 1952, in Claverack, New York. Each gallery plans to take a section for an outpost, as well as have space for art storage.

“The idea of ​​doing something outside of the traditional New York thing is pretty refreshing,” Kreps said. “He doesn’t have to be [competitive]. Together, this project gives the impression that the sum of its parts is greater than one. (Expect a knockout screening next spring or summer.)

Some new collectives and operations “actively reject white cube space,” curator trio said Grand paradise, whose first exhibition was at Katioshka Melo’s farm in Germantown. And near Hudson, a group of Californian transplant recipients created the mysterious Sun fair, which merges outdoor sculpture with a working farm.

At the Elijah Wheat Showroom, which opened last July, “we are putting together a risky program, so current and contemporary,” said Carolina Wheat. “People are sniffling, ‘what are they doing?’.” Cue the handbags seen around town.

A matter of community

Serban Ionescu works at Sunfair Farm.

Community is at the heart of the upstate art scene’s momentum, and the NADA exhibit in Foreland clearly shows this sense of camaraderie. When curator Jesse Aran Greenberg, who also has a gallery house project in Hudson, traveled to Foreland to meet Stef Halmos, the creator and operator of the complex, he immediately turned to NADA to line up an exhibit. during Upstate Art Weekend. When NADA agreed, “Stef basically said, ‘here are the keys,'” Greenberg said.

The Old Mill was just a shell of space when Halmos acquired it in 2017, and it is now home to 30 artist studios (current residents include Shara Hughes, Lyle Ashton Harris and Marc Swanson).

“Much of the art market and fairs are devoted to painting,” Greenberg said. “But Foreland doesn’t have a lot of wall space,” so the NADA exhibit instead focuses on sculpture and objects. Notable participants include Courtney Puckett (JAG Projects), Rachel Mica Weiss (Carvalho Park, New York) and Carl D’alvia (Hesse Flatow).

“The real problem I had with the art world was this exclusionary industry,” said Halmos. “We are really working to build an intentional artistic community. This place must be special, but it must also be for everyone.

Jeila Gueramian works at ArtPort Kingston.

So what happens after NADA leaves this week? Artists’ studios will remain a place of convergence and community, which is also the mission of the many residences opening up in the neighborhood, including Forge project, River Hill Residence, and KinoSaito, a magnificent new arts center in Verplanck, on the banks of the Hudson River, dedicated to the work of Kikuo Saito.

“It’s just about connecting the dots and celebrating what’s going on, building community and bonding,” said Helen Toomer of StoneLeaf.

So, will it last? “The upstate is a utopia in general, but it’s going to take time,” Parrasch said of the local market.

Perhaps the most convincing indication of the Hudson Valley’s desire for longevity is its reputation as a place of discovery of new artists and artistic activities.

“We believe there is a future for a lot of things in the upstate, but the fairs will certainly have a new, deeper life as more and more people embrace the idea that ingenuity does not come true. not limit to the nearest larger city, ”said Andrew Gori, co-founder of Roaming. Spring / Break art fair, which just held a “Immersive in the upstate”Of nine sculptural commissions in Dongan Park in Poughkeepsie. “More exciting initiatives are bound to emerge as those who care about decentralized artistic ecosystems, who want to show, acquire and financially support these ideas, live in these fields.”

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About Bernice D. Brewer

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