The pretty French receptionists had matching ruby red lips and the sort of effortlessly-coiffed updos you regularly find on the red carpet. When I entered, they smiled in tandem and greeted me with a sincere apology that the Urban Art Fair would be closing soon and would I still like to see it?
Smiling back, I said “Yes!”
In their matching French accents they said, “Okeh,” handed me my wristband, a map, and ushered me into the gallery space on the first floor.
The first floor of the Urban Art Fair was dedicated to the FUN Gallery, a gallery established in the 80s that was home to many of the pioneers of urban art like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The FUN gallery was the first gallery in NYC to give graffiti artists one-man shows and, back in the day, provided a previously-unheard-of meeting ground for people from various walks of life – historians, rap stars, high-profile collectors, and everyday New Yorkers.
Scattered around the walls on the first floor exhibit were photographs and other relics of the gallery, which provided a key historical grounding for the rest of the fair but which did not provide the sort of excitement one might expect when thinking of Urban Art – a categorization that usually connotes something bold and uniquely cutting-edge, a little punky, and pop-inspired.
Thankfully, after taking the elevator to the 5th floor, I was greeted by just that.
The Spring Studios event space provided the perfect background for the galleries being shown. The walls were high and wide and white and the back wall was completely glass, allowing for the sunlight to stream down. The art was just as colorful and fun as you might expect it to be, and the people walking around were dressed artist-casually, speaking a mixture of French and English.
It was here that my friend and resident street art aficionado, David Daniel, joined me. He was wearing all black, including a T-Shirt with a small American flag that said “FUCK DONALD” and ran into me from behind to announce his arrival.
Some of my personal favorites from the shows on the 5th and 6th floors were the deconstructed structural works of Hendrik Czakainski, a Berlin-based artist from the German gallery Urban Spree and Tomaso Albertini’s recreation of Van Gogh’s self-portrait as represented by FAT FREE ART, a gallery located in New York City’s lower east side. David, already a fan of an urban artist named Kaws, seemed partial to his work that was being shown, also by FAT FREE ART.
Other cool works included a giant mural done by Hopare from Paris’s Galerie 42b and this groovy chick painted by Gael Froget and shown by BEL-AIR FINE ART, a gallery based in Geneva but located in St. Tropez/Cannes, France for the Urban Art Fair’s purposes.
*An additional thank you/shout-out to Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau, a French-American exhibitor from Houston, TX who I have never met in person but who I once emailed and now follow on FaceBook, who is also the reason why I found out about the Urban Art Fair, and who always astounds with the sheer grandeur of his works – pictured here, a portion of Preservons la Creation, a piece made from metal, spray paint, and spray paint cans that capitalizes on optical illusion.