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News: Independent 20th Century returns to Lower Manhattan with a broadened look at art history, September  5, 2023 - Osman Can Yerebakan

Independent 20th Century returns to Lower Manhattan with a broadened look at art history

September 5, 2023 - Osman Can Yerebakan

The second edition of Independent 20th Century will open at Cipriani South Street on 7 September with 33 international galleries exhibiting art made between 1900 and the early 2000s. “The more you search, the more you find,” Elizabeth Dee, the fair’s founder and CEO, told The Art Newspaper. “There is an endless broadening of understanding of this time period—it just feels vast.”

A large portion of the material on view was overlooked at the time of its making due to social and political prejudices. “With more investigation, the associations between artists become clearer,” Dee says, and keeping track of work created after 1970 has been easier, “but discovering how work by women, Black and queer artists from the 1910s and 20s was preserved by people who valued them is a gift”.

The fair was launched last year, after Dee noticed a shift in how people view the last century’s art and the growing number of museums attempting to correct and reorganise their collections to make room for previously unrecognised artists and their works. While the institutions have a mountainous amount of work ahead of them, the market interest for works by historically marginalized artists has experienced a significant rise.

A striking case in the fair’s attempt to posthumously expand the reach of overlooked artists is Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel’s solo stand for the Brazilian artist Wanda Pimentel (1943-2019), who never had a solo exhibition in the US in her lifetime. The meticulous presentation of Pimentel's paintings of geometric precision and Pop Art exuberance (“a larger version of this booth could easily be shown at an institution like the Guggenheim”, Dee says) is the result of two years of research and preservation.

Another research-heavy participant is Hauser & Wirth Institute, whose two-person stand shows archives of the Pakistani artist Zahoor ul Akhlaq (1941-1999) and the American artist Mary Dill Henry (1913-2009). The entirely non-commercial presentation of the Swiss blue-chip’s recently established non-profit leg stems from collaborations with Asia Art Archive and Paul V. Galvin Library’s University Archives and Special Collections at Illinois Institute of Technology.

“We were drawn to Independent 20th Century’s focus on reassessing the canon to make it more inclusive and representative,” says Lisa Darms, Hauser & Wirth Institute’s executive director. “With the direct engagement with the public that the fair enables, and the opportunity for people to see selections from archives in person, we’re expecting to have some great conversations with fairgoers about the potential and importance of archives.”

“The questions of ‘why this?’ ‘why now?’ really bring the fair forward,” says Dee, and within a commercial environment, she notes that “an intellectually generous approach” is still fundamental. “I am a big believer that no material should be dummied down,” she says, “and the original source should be brought forward as much as possible.”

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