Contemporary art Fairs USA

A critic’s guide to the satellite fairs: it has a pulse

Christian Viveros-Fauné finds professionalism, dependability but few surprises at Pulse fair

Charles A.A. Dellschau, Plate 4474 September 17 1919, on show with the private Brooklyn dealer Stephen Romano, is one of Pulse's biggest—and rare—surprises

Clean, articulate, and professionally turned out, the Pulse contemporary art fair returns to New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea (125 West 18th Street) for its eighth consecutive edition. The fair, which also pitches its tent in Miami in December, presents 60 US and international galleries, the same number as last year. An accessible, dependable, but ultimately predictable art event, this year’s Pulse remains long on order and short on surprises—very much as it has been since its founding in 2005.

Divided into two sections, Pulse aims for a mix of mostly second-tier galleries that cover a part of the art world that fair director Cornell DeWitt characterises as ranging from “young to established to secondary market”. At the Metropolitan Pavilion, that means that the adults rule the ground floor, while the kiddies are shunted upstairs into a second floor designed for solo project booths the fair calls its Impulse section. Against expectation, the vast majority of the fair’s real finds appear downstairs among the unabashed product of the more established dealers.

Take, for example, two painted Gerhard Richter photographs on view at Cologne’s Galerie Stefan Roepke: tiny yet mysterious signature paintings, priced at $20,000 and $52,000, they are likely to be among the least expensive original Richter works available anywhere. Washington DC’s Adamson Gallery, for its part, presents silvery, archival pigment prints of Kate Moss by Chuck Close (the largest, the last of the edition, is priced at $65,000), as well two luscious colour prints by the African-American photographer and film director (1971’s “Shaft”) Gordon Parks: the best one features a black mother and daughter in their Sunday finery standing beneath a neon “Colored Entrance” sign in Mobile, Alabama (an edition of seven, each photo is priced at $17,500). But by far the fair’s biggest surprise arrives courtesy of the private Brooklyn dealer Stephen Romano, whose stand not only contains a large, two-sided Henry Darger drawing—it also hosts six double-sided coloured pencil works by Charles A. A. Dellschau, a fellow outsider artist whose drawings of futuristic Jules Verne space vehicles are in major American museums, including Houston’s Menil Collection (individual works range from $30,000 to $85,000).

I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of Philadelphia’s West Collection at Pulse. Besides providing lively emerging art from the private collection of Paige West and her family for the fair’s common areas (Jason Rogenes, Tristin Lowe and Kay Healy), they also have a booth that manifests their own hands-on artist-in-the-marketplace programme: of note among other smart and inexpensive works is Drew Leshko’s minutely detailed replica of Philadelphia’s boarded up Western Savings Fund Society bank building (a steal at $4,500).

Gordon Parks, Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, edition of seven, with Washington DC’s Adamson Gallery
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