At Its 15th Edition, Independent Celebrates Its Past and Looks to the Future

May 10th, 2024
Portrait of Nina Johnson at her booth at Independent, 2024. Photo by Leandro Justen. Courtesy of Independent.

By Maxwell Rabb

As New York’s fortnight of art fairs draws to a close, the 15th edition of Independent breathes fresh air into the city’s art scene. Taking place at Tribeca’s Spring Studios through May 12th, the stylish fair welcomed throngs of guests at 11 a.m. on its VIP day Thursday. This year marks Independent’s most expansive and ambitious fair yet, featuring 89 galleries, some 37 of which are making their debut.

Independent maintains a solid reputation, and much of its enduring appeal can be attributed to an inclusive approach advocated by its founder, Elizabeth Dee. A fixture in New York’s art scene and a former gallery owner, Dee has increasingly embraced a hands-on role as the fair continues to expand.

“I’m the gallerist of the galleries,” Dee told Artsy on the rooftop minutes into the fair’s opening. “They’re my artists. They are the talent. I believe that they have a vision. And I believe that some of the artists that they are getting behind are going to ascend.”

For Dee, Independent has evolved into a platform to propel young artists and galleries into a broader conversation that brings in an enthusiastic and informed crowd of exhibitors, curators, and collectors. Rather than creating separate sections for emerging galleries, Independent opts for a flattened approach, where galleries of all levels exhibit alongside each other.

“[The artists and galleries] need exposure, really critical thinking, museum milestones, collecting milestones, and just a presence—they need the platform that helps them do that, and the fair platforms are not helping them,” said Dee. “We can use the fair platform to help facilitate the economic need because if they’re not funded, they can’t compete, and if we can create a more democratic environment.”

At the busiest intersection on the fifth floor, Miami’s held court at the heart of the fair, presenting a packed booth with historical and contemporary works by artists who are mothers. “The booth is really meant to show how artists who are mothers have existed in the past, how they exist now, and it’s just they happen to also have children, and in some instances that’s really helped their career—in some instances, it hurt it,” said founder Nina Johnson.

The presentation included works such as Rococo-styled chairs and table by , finished in automotive resin; ’s caged glass pieces, such as the pink baby-shaped Baby of the Town (2024), hung from the ceiling; and ’s quilts, such as Hollywood Squares(2023), depicting small vignettes of celebrities. Works in the booth, priced from $2,000 to $60,000, aim to create a celebratory atmosphere. A portion of the booth’s profits will be donated to Artists and Mothers, a nonprofit providing childcare for working artists.

Read the full article on Artsy.

  • Portrait of Nina Johnson at her booth at Independent, 2024. Photo by Leandro Justen. Courtesy of Independent.
  • Katie Stout, Baby of the Town, 2024, Glass and Steel, 19.5 x 11 x 7.5 in.
  • Elsa Hansen Oldham, Hollywood Squares, 2023. Courtesy of Nina Johnson.