Size isn’t everything

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The small scale of the Downtown Fair is part of its appeal

Barcelona Doric Black and Grey, 2013, Sean Scully (William Shearburn Gallery)

The St Louis-based dealer William Shearburn has his booth at the front entrance of the Downtown Fair, an inaugural Frieze satellite run by Art Miami director Nick Korniloff. Shearburn’s stand sets the tone for the best parts of the event: he has serene pictures by Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, and a beautiful 2013 painting by Sean Scully titled Barcelona Doric Black and Grey, all three of which project a sense of clarity and purpose. These calm paintings were made by master artists with steady hands, and the best booths throughout the fair were put together with a similar emphasis on fostering a quiet, focused discussion.

“This is not an intimidating fair,” Korniloff says, and the dealer Renato Danese echoes him when he says that “my favourite part of the fair is its scale—it’s not overwhelming”. With 51 stands arranged neatly in three rows, the fair allows visitors to stroll at a leisurely pace, something hardly encouraged by the layout of larger, more sprawling fairs. Songwriter Bernie Taupin, whose work is on view at KM Fine Art’s booth, says his art is about “creating a conversation”. The fair layout fosters that.

The show is not without its problems. Shearburn points out that some of the work shown is not on a par with the best art on display, which is certainly evident. He says that in three to five years, the fair will have a clearer sense of identity and a stronger list of exhibitors. But for a show put together inside the pressure cooker of the New York art world’s busiest week, there is much to be happy with.

Correction, 8 May 2014: Bernie Taupin’s work is on view with KM Fine Art, not Jim Kempner

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