There’s nothing as sweet as a comeback, but last year it was uncertain if Volta, an art fair that has historically featured smaller and emerging galleries, would ever recover from its sudden cancelation just days before opening for New York’s Armory Week.
“You can focus on the negative, or you can look toward the positive,” Kamiar Maleki, the art fair’s new director, told ARTnews. “We are trying to recapture our momentum.”
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In October, Ramsay Fairs acquired Volta for an undisclosed sum, adding it to a portfolio that includes brands like Affordable Art Fair and Pulse Contemporary, both of which tend not to feature blue-chip works that can be seen at fairs like Art Basel and Frieze. The purchase came at the end of a fraught year for Volta, which last February canceled its 12th edition after construction issues forced the Armory Show to relocate a portion of its programming to the fair’s venue. (Both fairs were previously run by Merchandise Mart Properties.) Outraged by the displacement, exhibitors worked with collector Peter Hort and dealers Quang Bao and David Zwirner to mount an alternative exhibition, Plan B, that took place at two of the latter gallerist’s Chelsea spaces.
“It truly is an exhilarating time,” said Maleki, a collector known for directing Contemporary Istanbul from 2016 to 2018. “We have focused the exhibitor list on a strong and diverse 50-plus galleries and have loosened up the solo-project mandate to offer participants greater liberty to stage their presentations as they would do so at their home galleries.”
Volta 2020 will take place at Metropolitan West, which is located only a few blocks south of the piers where the Armory Show takes place. According to Maleki, the exhibition will look toward the fair’s “extended family” and see the return of a handful of galleries after several years of absence. Among those coming back to the fair are Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans), Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery (Santo Domingo), Léna & Roselli Gallery (Budapest), and Galerie Wenger (Zurich).
Many of the artists showcased at this year’s edition engage with political and environmental topics. Yaw Owusu will examine socioeconomic concerns in Ghana with Gallery 1957 (Accra); Ansen Antilla will debut a new series called “Wasteland” underscoring the artist’s ecological concerns in Turkey with the gallery x-ist (Istanbul); and the gallery Roya Khadjavi Projects (New York) will present a range of works exploring Iran’s contemporary art scene and diaspora by artists Aida Izadpanah, Shirin Hosseinvand, and the Safarani Sisters.
“While never participating before, we have always found Volta to be the perfect place for artistic discovery and collecting,” said Victoria Cooke, director of Gallery 1957. “With Kamiar now at the helm and the new location, we’re expecting really great things.”
Compared to last year, the size of Volta has decreased by nearly 30 percent, and the majority of exhibitors from 2019’s canceled edition will not be returning. “You are only as good as your last fair,” says Maleki, who’s looking to woo galleries back after the 2019 fiasco. “I think it’s better to have quality over quantity.”
Still, there are some holdouts, including Jonathan Ferrara. “The gallery is excited to return to Volta, with its unique and characteristic, aesthetic position in the marketplace,” Ferrara told ARTnews, adding that the fair’s emphasis on solo exhibitions and new management is a recipe for success.
Maleki says he is excited to see how people react to Volta 2020, which runs March 4–8.
“I wouldn’t be doing this job if I weren’t nervous,” he said, noting that he has consulted with people like Hort and the fair’s previous director, Amanda Coulson, on making this year’s edition a success. Ultimately, Maleki is focused on restoring an experience of excitement and discovery to Volta, which critics say has been absent from recent editions.
And if another unforeseen catastrophe comes his way? Maleki says he’s not worried. “There’s always a plan B, but we believe that Volta will succeed.”
The full exhibitor list follows below.
Gallery 1957 (Accra) // Yaw Owusu
Art Village Gallery (Memphis) // Tega Akpokona, Zeinu Mudeser, Ephraim Urevbu
Gallery Bastejs (Riga) // Arturs Virtmanis
Black & White Gallery / Project Space (Brooklyn ) // Henry Khudyakov
Bo Lee Gallery (London) // Tomas Harker
Rutger Brandt Gallery (Amsterdam) // Yigal Ozeri, Carlos Sagrera
C&C Gallery (London) // Zavier Ellis, Mona Osman
Charlie Smith London (London) // Emma Bennett, Florian Heinke, Sam Jackson, Concha Martinez Barreto, Alex Gene Morrison, Barry Thompson
Cohju Contemporary Art (Kyoto) // Ryo Shinagawa
The Cynthia Corbett Gallery (London) // Fabiano Parisi, Isabelle Van Zeijl
Crossing Art (New York) // Feng Qin
Gallery Delaive (Amsterdam) // Ayako Rokkaku
Susan Eley Fine Art (New York) // Francie Hester
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans) // Paul Villinski
The Flat – Massimo Carasi (Milan) // Hiva Alizadeh, Paolo Cavinato, Leonardo Ulian
Foley (New York) // Bradley Castellanos, Karen Margolis, Stan Squirewell
Galerie Frey (Vienna/Salzburg) // Harding Meyer
Galerie Thomas Fuchs (Stuttgart) // Yongchul Kim, Ruprecht von Kaufmann
Green Point Projects (Brooklyn) // Stefan Krygier, Lukasz Patelczyk
Gridchinhall (Moscow) // Vladimir Grig
Mark Hachem (Paris/Beirut) // Ghazi Baker, Hussein Madi, Wolfgang Stiller
Intemperie Art (Singapore) // Javier Murcia
iv gallery (West Hollywood) // Sam Tufnell
Galerie Roger Katwijk (Amsterdam) // Jae Ko
Roya Khadjavi Projects (New York) // Shirin Hosseinvand, Safarani Sisters, Aida Izadpanah
Kohgen Divine Art Gallery (Okinawa) // Ain Kohgen
KultProekt Gallery (Moscow) // Mikhail Molochnikov
KYAS Art Salon (Amsterdam) // Inbar Hasson, Rinus van Hall
Anna Laudel (Istanbul) // Ardan Ozmenoglu
Léna & Roselli Gallery (Budapest) // Boldi, Mózes Incze
Livingstone Gallery (The Hague/Berlin) // Raquel Maulwurf
JD Malat Gallery (London) // Conrad Jon Godly, Li Tianbing, Robert Montgomery
Marquee Projects (Bellport, NY) // John Perreault
Mizoe Art Gallery (Tokyo) // Tamie Okuyama, Kenpei Yunde
Mon Share Art (Milan/Miami/New York) // Daniele Accossato, Fabio Giampietro
NanHai Art (Milibrae CA) // Kulin He
NL=US Gallery (Rotterdam) // Jan Maarten Voskull
Abigail Ogilvy Gallery (Boston) // Lavaughan Jenkins
PIERMARQ* (Sydney) // Doug Argue, Bertrand Fournier
Planthouse (New York) // Rachel Ostrow
Lyle O. Reitzel Arte Contemporánea (Santo Domingo) // Los Bravú
Galerie Richard (Paris/New York) // Young-Hun Kim
Sim Smith (London) // Tim Garwood, David Surman
Space776 (Brooklyn) // Jaena Kwon
STOA (Malaga) // Conchi Alvarez
TOTH Gallery (New York) // Hector Frank, Alain Pino
Gallery UG (Tokyo) // Kunihito Nohara, Nami Okada, Takaoki Tajima
Galerie Wenger (Zürich) // Katy Ann Gilmore
Rick Wester Fine Art (New York) // Cat Balco, Tom McGlynn, Alyse Rosner
John Wolf (Los Angeles) // Bradley Wood
x-ist (Istanbul) // Ansen Atilla
X-Pinky Berlin (Berlin) // Isabella Sedeka
Z Gallery Arts (Vancouver) // Ran Zhou
ZINC Contemporary (Seattle) // Ashley Norwood Cooper