This morning, in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, some 30 galleries previously slated to take part in Volta, the Armory Show’s sister fair that was canceled late last month, congregated for the opening of Plan B, an exhibition assembled by Quang Bao, the founder of New York’s 1969 Gallery; collector Peter Hort; and dealer David Zwirner. The show spans David Zwirner’s space at 525 West 19th Street and a commercial space at 534 West 21st Street, and the mood was jubilant, despite the last-minute shifts in planning.
Kim Light, a partner of the Los Angeles–based gallery E.C.Liná, which has a booth on West 21st Street, said that change of venue “felt kind of like when you’re traveling and you lose your suitcase—it’s a little liberating.” She added that she wished the Armory Show could’ve done more for the galleries who prepared to show at Volta, though overall, she seemed hopeful. “Thank goodness for the Horts,” she continued. “I actually think it’s the best case scenario—we’re here in Chelsea at David Zwirner!”
Still, some exhibitors lamented the unexpected costs associated with the change in venue. Espace A Vendre, of Nice, France, had already shipped its works when its dealers received the call notifying them that Volta had been canceled. What would they have done had Plan B not come through? “Probably bring it back home,” director Bertrand Baraubou said with a shrug.
A sense of optimism was palpable on West 19th Street, at Zwirner, where 1969 Gallery, Charlie Smith London, Galerie Thomas Fuchs (of Stuttgart, Germany), and George Lawson Gallery (of Emeryville, California) are among those showing work. These enterprises are in closer quarters than they would’ve been at Pier 90, where Volta was to be held, but the dealers seem to have made do just fine with what they were allotted.
One of the biggest presentations on view at Plan B came courtesy of the Bronx-based artist Borinquen Gallo, who is represented by Burning in Water gallery, of New York and San Francisco. Her installation comprises two wall hangings that incorporate red and green caution tape, in an allusion to the Bronx’s history and the gentrification currently happening in the borough, explained Barry Thomas Malin, a director of Burning in Water. Also on view is a selection of baroquely decorated hubcaps, which the artist collected in her neighborhood.
Malin told ARTnews that the gallery had originally intended to show a 20-foot-wide piece by Gallo, but the corner they were assigned at Zwirner could not accommodate it. That was “one big difference” between the gallery’s presentation at Plan B versus what was planned for Volta, he said.
Also at Zwirner, Brooklyn’s Robert Henry Contemporary gallery is presenting works by Sharon Lawless, who, like Gallo, works primarily with found materials. Robert Walden, who cofounded the gallery with Henry Chung, said that Lawless is “one of the many women artists who hasn’t been given her due,” and her showing in Plan B features one collage and six sculptural pieces created using product packaging.
Chung said that, while installing the booth, he was taken aback by the “sense of calm I’d never seen before with an art fair,” especially given that unexpected chaos had already ensued with the termination of Volta. He added that the atmosphere was “cooperative and collaborative,” though the gallery had to “curate even tighter” than expected. Like Burning in Water, Robert Henry Contemporary was forced to show fewer works than expected at its fair booth.
Extroverted offerings could also be found on West 21st Street, where viewers are greeted upon entry by a selection of works by Chinese artist Chando Ao that had been brought there by the New York gallery YveYANG. One piece, titled I Am a Fish (2017), was a motorized fishbowl with a living goldfish inside. The piece’s motion sensor responded to the fish’s jerking and frenetic movements, while the Richie Jen karaoke song from which the piece took its name played from a small speaker. Throughout the morning, the artist could be seen changing the fish’s water.
Kim Light, whose gallery was showing nearby YveYANG, wasn’t the only one thanking the Horts, and there was good reason to celebrate them. On Tuesday evening, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation hosted a viewing party for its collection in the family’s Tribeca penthouse. Michael Hort, the father of Plan B organizer Peter Hort, told ARTnews that Johan Zahorjan, the founder of the gallery Zahorian & Van Espen, of Bratislava, Slovakia, called Hort after the Volta cancelation was announced. Zahorjan was so distressed, he was ready to severely discount the work. “This bothered us,” Michael Hort said. It was this phone conversation that made Hort realize that someone needed to create an alternative to Volta.
Hort added that the whole situation showed a lack of action on on the Armory Show’s part. “The real thing now is that the Armory isn’t even supporting [Plan B],” he said. “It’s such a joke. They’re not helping in any way.”