Independent New York proves that art fairs are still relevant

In its new home at Cipriani South Street at the Battery Maritime Building, Independent New York promises to excite, confront, protest and tantalise. Here’s all you need to know about the NYC art fair (9 – 12 September 2021)

Four coloured screens, the first screen reads game over
Cory Arcangel and JODI, ’Feedback Loop’ at Lisson Gallery for Independent art fair
(Image credit: press)

Independent New York: the ten-second overview 

Independent New York feels part art fair, part group show. Running 9 – 12 September, this year’s more focused incarnation of the fair (20 fewer galleries than in March 2020) includes work by 100 artists from 43 galleries, with 40 solo and dual artist presentations – more than ever before. Much younger than the Armory, which will take place during the same dates across town at the Javits Center, Independent is celebrating its 12th year. 


There is nothing staid about this art fair that ‘decomodifies talent whilst building long-term patrons’, according to Independent’s co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Dee. Emergent galleries such as Off Paradise, The Ranch and Regular Normal jostle up against more established names like Lisson Gallery, plus non-profits including Creative Growth, an Oakland platform that showcases artists with disabilities, including William Scott. Whilst having cultivated a reputation for debuting the most exciting new artists to watch, the fair continues to attract the powerhouses, such as returning alum Bosco Sodi. 

Exterior view of Cipriani South Street at Battery Maritime Building, the new location for Independent New York.

Exterior view of Cipriani South Street at Battery Maritime Building, the new location for Independent New York. 

(Image credit: Etienne Frossard and Independent New York)

Intersectionality is the big talking point this year. Much of the work on show addresses themes of race, class, age and gender discrimination alongside environmental issues, and, crucially, the detrimental impact when they overlap. Important, too, is the presence of some nonconformist gallery spaces, such as White Columns, New York’s oldest, non-profit, alternative art space that champions creatives yet to benefit from wider curatorial or commercial attention.

This year, robust and compelling digital programming will accompany the IRL fair, facilitating a global audience despite current travel restrictions. ‘A primary motivation for the Independent is to act as a catalyst, to initiate new conversations around art with an engaged and curious public. At the heart of this dialogue is the work of the artists and gallerists, who remain fundamental to the Independent’s mission,’ says Matthew Higgs, founding curatorial advisor of Independent New York. 

Great Hall at Battery Maritime Building

Great Hall at Battery Maritime Building, New York. 

(Image credit: Swoop, Courtesy Cipriani South Street, New York)

New year, new location

This year, the fair waves goodbye to Spring Studios and makes a new home at Cipriani South Street at the Battery Maritime Building – the first time the building will be open to the public following a decades-long renovation. The 1908 Beaux-Arts style building was once the preserve of New York’s wealthiest, who would come to board their boats, while the less fortunate would take in the fresh air above ground with a stroll on the promenade overhanging the smoggy street below. Once central to Manhattan’s trade port, located just south of Brooklyn Bridge, in recent years the area has become somewhat forgotten. No longer. 

‘We gave a lot of consideration to what would create a safe space,’ says Elizabeth Dee. The building is museum-capacity, and there will be outside-only food and beverage areas: bag a table at the new onsite Cipriani Downtown on the 360 ft outdoor terrace while you can. Entering through the North Concourse, guests will be greeted by ten galleries, which include the work of Che Lovelace and Chase Hall. In the Great Hall, visitors find an expansive, airy and light-flooded hangar-like room, with a 200 ft-long skylight that stretches the entirety of the space. A final area, the water-facing West Concourse, will house a handful of further galleries in an intimate, more contemplative setting. 

Artist Jameson Green in his Bronx studio with paintings, including Neighborhood Games Pt.2

Artist Jameson Green in his Bronx studio with paintings, including Neighborhood Games Pt.2, 2021. 

(Image credit: Jameson Green)

Artists to watch 

Jameson Green references classical art history in his solo show at Derek Eller Gallery. Imbued with the sinister cartoonish style of Philip Guston and the heft of Goya, his works confront institutionalised white supremacy. ‘Painting is my sanctuary, my sanity. It’s saved my life,’ he has said.

Sally J Han (at Fortnight Institute) will present four new large-scale works that depict moments of introspection in meticulous detail. 

For multi-disciplinary, self-taught artist Chase Hall (Monique Meloche gallery), coffee plays an important role in his work, symbolising the legacy journey made by so many from Africa to America and the integral racial imbalance in the country’s foundations. 

Green figure head glazed ceramic art piece

(Image credit: Greg Carideo)

Leilah Babirye, Wanyana from the Kuchu Grasshopper Clan, 2021, Glazed ceramic and found objects. Courtesy Gordon Robichaux, NY and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. 

Ugandan artist Leilah Babirye (Gordon Robichaux) is gathering a groundswell of interest in her sculptures that often use found materials from the streets of New York and explore queer identity. She received asylum in the US in 2018 after fleeing anti-LGBTQI+ persecution in her native country. 

Oil paintings by Jo Nigoghossian, previously known for her blown glass and steel sculptures, are exhibited with the newly formed Broadway Gallery. At Matthew Brown LA, Sedrick Chisom’s uneasy and foreboding paintings depict a future world navigating the crippling effects of racial stereotyping. Robert Barber has been producing art since he was a teenager, but was not discovered until he was in his early nineties, by Kerry Schuss. 

The key players

Bosco Sodi launched his international career at Independent in 2009. Now he’s back with Axel Vervoordt Gallery and showing a ‘chapel’ of objects that will be on show in the main gallery space, reflecting on the turbulence of the past year, and coinciding with his solo show at the Dallas Museum of Art.

textured black triangle on canvas

Bosco Sodi, Malevich Homage #1, 2021, Mixed media on canvas. Axel Vervoordt gallery

(Image credit: press)

Considered digital innovators in the 2000s when they rose to notoriety, JODI, the Dutch collective, and Cory Arcangel (Lisson Gallery) will present works that cover two decades of dialogue, addressing technology’s impact on culture today. Set against the backdrop of the current hot NFT market, works will include vintage Apple computers and large jumbotron screens. 

Digital viewing for all   

Embracing a ‘hybrid model and digital opportunities for storytelling’, Independent will host its first ever online viewing room, with exclusive digital material such as Anne Hardy’s new solo show at Maureen Paley, Albert Leo Peil showing with German gallery Delmes & Zander, video profiles of First Nation artists by Fazakas Gallery, alongside editorial coverage, interviews, rare virtual studio visits, podcasts and in-depth, specially commissioned videos, further democratising the fair’s offering.

Nebula oil painting

Jo Nigoghossian, Nebula, 2020 oil on canvas.

(Image credit: Broadway)


Independent New York, 9 -12 Sept 2021. The fair's online viewing room will be live until September 26.

Tilly is a British writer, editor and digital consultant based in New York, covering luxury fashion, jewellery, design, culture, art, travel, wellness and more. An alumna of Central Saint Martins, she is Contributing Editor for Wallpaper* and has interviewed a cross section of design legends including Sir David Adjaye, Samuel Ross, Pamela Shamshiri and Piet Oudolf for the magazine.