By: Sheila Gibson Stoodley
New York—Haughton International Fairs has canceled the 2009 International Asian Art Fair, which had been scheduled for March 11–15 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The London-based fair organizer posted a short announcement on its website in mid-December that blamed “the present global economic situation” for the move and claimed that “many of the dealers who had contracted to take part are not in a position to go forward in the current climate and as such we have decided a fair would put an untenable strain on their resources.”
In a subsequent e-mail, company cofounder Anna Haughton said that “a substantial number of dealers had contracted to the fair” and “the fair was nearly full” when the decision was made to cancel, but she declined to give specific numbers. “We spent weeks on the phone talking to the IAAF dealers,” Haughton wrote, “and it soon became apparent that they were really anxious and struggling with the uncertainty of the business.” Haughton says the company intends to revive the fair in 2010. (Art & Antiques is an IAAF sponsor.)
Two Asian art dealers who have long been loyal to the IAAF, which would have staged its 14th edition this year, quickly mobilized to arrange an open-house event on the Upper East Side during Asia Week, a collection of events that are scheduled close to major March sales of Asian material at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The open house, titled Asian Art Dealers on the Upper East Side, NY, will involve at least a dozen galleries opening their doors and is expected to take place March 15 and March 17. Simultaneously, Erik Thomsen, Leighton Longhi and four other Manhattan-based dealers of Japanese art reacted to the fair’s cancellation by planning their own show. Titled Arts of Japan: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association, it will be held at the Ukrainian Institute in Manhattan March 15–17.
Joan Mirviss, who runs a gallery of Japanese art (see “Feats of Clay,” page 40), and Jiyoung Koo, who heads the Koo New York gallery of Korean art, spent the days before Christmas recruiting colleagues for the open house. Earlier in the fall, the two had informally discussed launching such an event; the IAAF’s cancellation moved them to act. Among the Manhattan galleries that have agreed to participate are Goedhuis Contemporary, Art of the Past and Kaikodo. Christian Deydier of Paris and other foreign galleries are also expected to participate by renting display spaces on or near Madison Avenue.
The cancellation follows a 2008 IAAF that some observers found problematic. Because of a scheduling hiccup, the IAAF could not secure the Park Avenue Armory for its preferred dates. The Haughtons relocated the fair to 583 Park Ave., about three blocks from the Armory, at the site of an active Christian Science church that rents its venue for events. Haughton said that the cost of renting the Armory played a major role in the cancellation but added that returning to 583 Park Ave. was not an option.
While Mirviss hopes the IAAF will resume next year, she sees the cancellation as the catalyst for uniting the Upper East Side Asian art galleries as an independent group. “I don’t know if there will be a fair next year, but on the other hand, we’re not going to let all our eggs be in the Haughton basket and find out five days before Christmas that there’s no fair,” she says. “We have got to be organized. If there’s a fair, fine. We’ll go ahead anyway. The more, the merrier.”