The satellite art fair Verge is ruffling a few painted feathers at galleries in Williamsburg. After the announcement last week that the Miami-based art fair was coming to the borough in an event coinciding with the Armory Show from March 3 to 6, several Billyburg gallery owners balked. The event, called Art Brooklyn, would conflict with Brooklyn Armory Gallery Hop, which Williamsburg Gallery Association has held the past seven years. Recently, the not for profit Best of Brooklyn helped hype the annual event through Brooklyn Tourism and smART Brooklyn, an initiative of the Borough President’s office promoting the borough’s gallery districts.
“I’m opposed to smART joining forces with Verge. It was using its resources to help us and for whatever reason they chose to support Verge as opposed to Williamsburg,” said Tatyana Okshteyn, founding member of the gallery association and director of Black and White Gallery. “It will divert traffic and we were the ones who started that night seven years ago.”
With the support of the DUMBO developer Two Trees and Brooklyn Tourism, Verge looks poised to garner a lion’s share of borough’s art crowd audience. Two Trees has shown itself to be a generous supporter of the arts, which doesn’t play badly with their own real estate interests in the area. Okshteyn said she has no problem with Two Trees’ support. This makes sense to the former businesswoman turned art dealer. Her gripe is with Best of Brooklyn.
“Why divert resources for a new comer who is an out of town entity, that will primarily have non-Brooklyn galleries,” she asked.
Borough President Marty Markowitz sees the art fair as win-win for all the gallery districts. In a statement he said, “It’s exciting that Verge will present its first-ever Brooklyn art fair during Armory Week, when thousands of artists and art lovers from across the globe converge on our city.”
Last night, members of the gallery association aired their concerns with representatives from Verge and Best of Brooklyn at regularly scheduled association meeting. Alun Williams, director of Parker’s Box Gallery, said the Verge representative was receptive but non-committal to holding back on having events during the Armory Gallery Hop. “We hope they don’t have any significant event. There might be a late night party and that would be OK for us,” he said. Randall Harris, director of Figureworks Gallery, said that Williamsburg traditionally holds their own Armory afterparty. “I don’t have a concern with them doing an event, but I certainly didn’t want smART and the borough president to focus all their energies on Verge.”
“Personally, I feel an art fair in Brooklyn is a bad idea,” concluded Harris. “If Brooklyn is an innovator, I think they could come up with another idea, instead of yet another satellite art fair. Having said that, Verge has done this before. I can only wish them luck.”