Launched in Brussels ten years ago by Stephanie Manasseh, the Accessible Art Fair arrives in New York for the first time this month. The US edition of the fair, presented by MvVO Art under the direction of Maria van Vlodrop, aims to demystify the art-buying process by removing the barrier between artists and collectors. Running 2–25 November at the National Arts Club, the event brings together 60 international artists who will present their work independently, without gallery representation. Ahead of the VIP opening, I spoke with three participating artists about the work they're showing and the Accessible Art Fair model.

AMANDA SCUGLIA, FORAGE, 2016. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

EM: Tell us a bit about the works you are bringing to Accessible Art Fair. (E.g. Individual works vs. a series, media, inspiration, etc.)

Katie Levinson (New York): I knew as soon as I was accepted to the fair that I wanted to create new works, especially because when you have a deadline it creates an outpouring of inspiration and motivation. I am showing a lot of pieces, but they are all unified by minimalist, clean, stark symbolism. I am working a lot with paper – I always have, but these new works have a greater emphasis on paper. A few are mixed media – one recurring theme is my use of pins. A couple incorporate found objects, like tree bark and buttons. The themes of the works are so varied. Some are representations of days of the week, some represent seasons. I just travelled to Iceland, so there are a number of pieces inspired by that trip.

Philippe Leblanc (Belgium): I am bringing three pieces, each the first work of three different series, to show all of the things I can do. I am really attracted to mathematics and geometry – not really figurative, but radical geometry. One of the works, Gold Puzzle, is actually a family tree. I represented different members of my family with wood painted with airbrush. The proportion stays within the golden proportion – the first rectangle is covered in gold leaf to remind of this. Circles Pi Grey is a circle to represent the number pi. It is a kind of a puzzle, with each decimal [of the first 100] represented with curved pieces in different colors. It looks very complicated, but you could decode it. The third work is called Mayanacci Gold, which is a contraction of Maya and Fibonacci. I wrote in Mayan numbers the Fibonacci sequence, and the work is a laser cut perforated plate with a lightbox in front of gold, to remind us of the golden ratio again. When it’s lit it looks very radical, but it actually refers to history. People say they hate mathematics but they like my work, because it is all interpretation.

Amanda Scuglia (New York): I am bringing brand new work, all oil paintings.  As a figurative representational artist I work through different mediums, and each medium is a different avenue for me. In these pieces in particular, the light and temperature reference a certain time of the day, such as the magic hour. I am primarily focused on pose, or gesture, coupled with muted color and very specific lighting to represent the moment right before something happens, or right after.  

LEFT: CIRCLES PI GREY. RIGHT: GOLD PUZZLE. BOTH BY PHILIPPE LEBLANC. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

In what way(s) do you think the Accessible Art Fair structure benefits artists or your work in particular? Or, Why were you drawn to participating?

Katie Levinson: I love the honest approach that this fair has to showing artwork – there is no middleman, no arbitrary situations, especially for an emerging artist. This is the first art fair I have participated in – a lot of other art fairs have the requisite of gallery representation, which automatically discounts such a large percentage of artists, so I appreciate the Accessible Art Fair’s mission to present and foster individual artists based on their work and merit instead of the chance encounter to have representation.

Philippe Leblanc: I was trying to show my work in New York, but not at any price. I knew Stephanie in Brussels, and I thought the jury sounded very interesting and professional, which drew me to participate. The venue of course is very nice, but the fact that they ask the artists to stay for the first week is really interesting. It might be better to have a gallery selling for you if you’re a little shy, but when you explain your own work you find yourself realizing things; answering viewers’ questions makes you think about things differently. I like to have real conversations with people about my work.

Amanda Scuglia: I was initially drawn honestly by the title – it is so friendly sounding, and I like that attitude, and how the format is also very welcoming. I like that there is no hierarchy – that is an attractive way to welcome people, to bring together both sides; the audience and the artist. There is a direct connection between the two. I am interested in the possibility of reaching and interacting with a different set of viewers than usual, and with the artists present for the first week you will get more access to people who might want to connect. I think the structure also allows artists to have a larger role in the team effort of the fair; you are given a little more control – you are allotted an amount of space, but the fair is not dictating how to use it or what to show.

KATIE LEVINSON, LITTLE THINGS, 2016. DETAIL. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

What advice would you give for looking at art in museums or at art fairs where the artist is not present? Or, How do you hope a collector or art lover considers a work of art when the artist is not present?

Katie Levinson: It’s definitely helpful to have the artist present – personally I love a good back story, learning about the motivation and process of a piece of art – but I don’t think it should be essential for fulfillment you get from art. You might gain a deeper appreciate if the artist is present, because they can share their insight and inspiration, but I think art lives autonomously apart from the artist. The attraction to art is physiological and chemical, not rational – it’s more of a love at first sight. Having that extra information is just that, it’s extra.

Philippe Leblanc: The way something is showcased is very important. In a museum you may only have a small label, and sometimes museum text is complicated, using puzzling words. When I go to museums I like to watch accompanying videos. But this is never the same as having a real conversation, which is more honest. The artist can give you details about making the work, anecdotal stories from his life... it is so much more interesting when you can have the artist in front of you. But at the same time the viewer is always the last to determine what the work is or means.

Amanda Scuglia: I think this fair is a really interesting experience, because each artist has a unique perspective on how they wish their work to be considered. I think there are many ways and levels you can respond to a work – for example, you can start aesthetically, if you have a visceral reaction, versus conceptual appreciation. The viewer might want to understand how the artist is telling a story or communicating through the handling of the medium or the process of making the piece. If you have the basic impression of if you like it, and consider why or why not, then you can think about what the artist’s intent is: is it meant to be shocking or beautiful, or make you question something, or make an association you hadn’t before? The ultimate thing for me is to relay an idea or feeling through the language of painting because it’s an outside entity. If a viewer gets a feeling when they look at my work that they realize they have felt before, or it makes them think “I never noticed that connection before,” that is the ultimate goal, and that is when I would consider the work successful. 

LEFT: AMANDA SCUGLIA, WILLOW, 2016. RIGHT: KATIE LEVINSON, PAST THE DEPTHS WE KNOW, 2016. COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS.

Sotheby's Preferred is delighted to partner with Accessible Art Fair Brussels and Accessible Art Fair New York presented by MvVO Art. Accessible Art Fair New York runs through 30 November 2016 at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park.

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PHILIPPE LEBLANC, MAYANACCI GOLD. DETAIL. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.