In a dicey art market and a sad economy, SOFA New York 2009 (April 16-19) is managing to pull people into the venerable Park Avenue Armory (67th St.). Dealers report a large crowd at last night's opening and, more important, some decent, even sizeable, sales (although only a few red dots were visible today). Attendance mid-day today looked pretty good, and dealers were cheery. Several expressed a clear preference for this April date over previous SOFA fairs held Memorial Day weekend.
SOFA – Sculptural Objects and Functional Art – is in its 12th year in New York, a spin-off of SOFA Chicago, the latter launched in 1994 and considerably larger. The show has set up beautifully and is easy to navigate. It doesn't overwhelm. The 55 dealers in the armory, who have come from as far away as Auckland, New Zealand, feature primarily glass, ceramics, wood, fiber and metal objects, by well-known artists such as Wendell Castle and Lino Tagliapietra as well as by less familiar, "emerging" names.
Most galleries are displaying works by several different artists, and a particularly appealing aspect of the show is the presence of many of these artisans who are delighted to engage you in a discussion of their work. Some booths feature works in a single medium – del Mano Gallery in LA, early in to the "contemporary wood movement," shows only works, some extraordinary, fashioned of various woods. Others, like Heller Gallery (NY) and Thomas R. Riley Galleries (Cleveland) handle only glass. Most, though, present a variety of artists and wares.
The fair works hard to position the objects as art rather than craft (a description viewed by some as a mild pejorative). And there are some really gorgeous pieces to be had here across a wide range of price points More pictures are available at New York Social Diary and W.
For collectors of the decorative arts, and for those who appreciate the extraordinary skill and labor that go into some of these pieces, not to mention the artistic vision, this show should be put on your calendar.