Last Saturday, in the thick afternoon heat, The Observer was standing in the entrance of an old glue factory on the outskirts of Hudson, N.Y. The 19th-century building was made of brick and had dusty, cracked window panes. It was by the train station and the road leading up to it was broken up by train tracks. A modest white sign hung over the entrance that said, “NADA Hudson.”
More than 50 members and friends of the New Art Dealers Alliance had taken over the abandoned factory for the weekend. Artwork was scattered around like industrial equipment on the lawn out front and on the dusty floor. Over at Christopher Crescent Gallery, a piece by Dan Shaw-Towns had to be moved because guests were stepping on it. There were no booths. Joel Mesler, co-owner of the Lower East Side gallery Untitled, stood in a dim corner next to three woodcuts, leaning against the wall, by Graham Collins, incidentally Untitled’s preparator. He was telling The Observer about a script he had written several years ago called Farming for Dummies.
“It takes place essentially in a town like this,” Mr. Mesler said. “These two guys buy this house and have these dreams of opening a commune but they realize they’re actually just urban assholes. So they try to resell their property and nobody wants it. Everybody just says, ‘It’s a shit town. Nobody wants your property because you overpaid for it anyway.’ They say, ‘O.K., we’re gonna do an art fair in the town and get all these art people and then invite bands. Because the only way we’re gonna sell the property is to gentrify the town.’ So they get all these people and they have this amazing weekend and everyone starts buying property. They end up selling the house but then they realize all their friends are now living in this town! When they go to try to rebuy it, they’ve been priced out of the fucking market.”
Hudson is a community that has resisted gentrification for years. It is filled with New York expatriates and artists who left the city and never looked back. The town is a mix of beautiful stone mansions, high-end antique stores and blown-out houses with boarded-up windows and yards overgrown with weeds. The town’s preservation board has tried to mark the less privileged parts of town as historical districts to maintain the city’s unique character. Hudson is in flux, though, and NADA’s presence there with a clever, quasi-commercial twist on an art fair exemplifies this. Marina Abramovic purchased an old theater in town to build her Foundation for the Preservation of Performance Art. Two collectors recently bought an abandoned school with the intention of turning it into a Kunsthalle. NADA Hudson, however, was less an invasion of the New York art world into an unsuspecting country town. It felt more like an extension of Hudson’s charming quirks.
“It’s kind of an experiment,” said NADA director Heather Hubbs, sitting down with The Observer in the makeshift theater designated for performances. “Obviously the work here is for sale just like the work in an art fair is for sale. But I guess just thinking of it in the way it’s laid out, there’s no walls or these little cubicles that people are selling work out of.”
The dealer James Fuentes brought Ms. Hubbs’s attention to the old factory, now called Basilica Hudson. Mr. Fuentes used to visit the space when he was a student at Bard. A group of industrialists were going to buy the building and turn it into a functioning factory again, much to the chagrin of the town. One of Mr. Fuentes’s artists, William Stone, purchased the building in 2010 for the humble price $450,000, according to public records. Mr. Stone’s son had just moved to Hudson with his girlfriend.
“They ended up buying the space instead of the evil industrialists,” Mr. Fuentes said. “It was for the price of a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.”