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The Art Exchange
by Germaine Keller

Warren Neidich
"Andre Breton and the Surrealists (Warren Neidich has placed himself second from left), 1993

Opening night at the Art Exchange Show, an "(alternative) alternative art fair" wedged into the canyons of Wall Street for two weeks this past June, drew crowds of over 4,000 people. Even the security guards were impressed. They hadn't seen action like this since the halcyon days of now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert, the ex-junk bond bankers who went bust in the '80s and left creditors to drag away everything from the computers to the art off the walls.

Art gallerists Renee Riccardo and John Good formed a steering committee and collaborated with The Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc., to bring life into this two-block dead-zone of empty and near-empty office buildings, and they succeeded. Entering the derelict offices with the most spectacular views in Manhattan was tantamount to taking a post-cataclysmic journey, with hip new art as ballast.

An entire floor was given to curator Bill Arning who brought together 50 artists in an exhibition entitled, "The Most Important Thing in the World." Taking the battle between the British bands, Blur and Oasis, as his subject, he explored the interconnections between the art world and music world. Artists included Cheryl Donegan, Kevin Landers, Richard Phillips, and Laura Stein.

On the remaining four floors, 33 innovative dealers--some without a permanent gallery space--unceremoniously set up shop. Annie Herron, of the late Black + Herron Space, was there as Annie Herron Productions. Steffany Martz, celebrating her first year in Soho, showed captivating photos of the ubiquitous Warren Neidich. He mysteriously appears in old photos of art world doyens.

Jim Kempner covered a wall with Vera Lutter's extraordinary camera obscura/pinhole photograph of an old fire boat house in New York harbor while Helen M.Z. Harwood fittingly installed Alvaro A. Garcia's new sculptures made from "found" steel showcases. Kenny Schachter, an independent itinerant curator, was there with Brendan Cass's droll paintings. Bronwyn Keenan, Arena, Lipton Owens, 407, Natalie Rivera, John Good, Dru Arstark, and Pierogi 2000 were other galleries worthy of note.

But Colin DeLand, director of American Fine Arts, most aptly reflected the incongruous surroundings. He assembled and placed a row of "bad art" maritime paintings on easels to look like a corporate boardroom presentation. One easel carried a sign with the message, "'For when you're closing...nothing sells like a seascape in the office," signed J. Burnham, Drexel, B., L." In keeping with the philosophy of the marketplace, the installation was entitled, "Hoist Your Sales, Captain!"

Germaine Keller

New York, New York

1996

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