Animals appeared to outnumber human beings when the doors of the Metro Show opened to the public on Thursday morning. Yellow horses bearing Plains Indians, both fighting and flirting, galloped across the ledger pages on view at the booth of H. Malcolm Grimmer. A macabre anatomical model of a cow and brightly colored butterflies adorned the booth of Il Segno del Tiempo. Flocks of birds flapped across the embroidery samplers at M. Finkel & Daughter, and a bevy of beasts marched across the shelves of Gemini Antiques—metal lions chasing monkeys up trees, teddy bears driving cars, the whale opening its jaws for Jonah and a bullfrog that looked a bit scandalized by all the activity. At the entrance of the fair, a maze of fine, folk and contemporary art, antiques and Americana housed in the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, an amiable, early-20th-century elephant sign greeted visitors from the outside wall of Ricco/Maresca’s booth. “The big store will save you money on everything,” read the words painted across his flank.
There were certainly deals to be found at the small fair, which feels manageable with its 37 exhibitors, and the crowds swarming the opening night preview on Wednesday didn’t plaster the place with red dots. The antique print dealers at C&J Goodfriend, who brought a rich array of etchings by Durer, Rembrandt, Piranesi and Picasso, among others, said they didn’t sell anything during the preview. Piero Luigi Carboni, a dealer from Milan’s Il Segno del Tiempo, also said opening night was slow, but it was last year too and that didn’t stop business from booming during the rest of the fair. His is the only gallery hailing from overseas. “We call this ‘the white fly’ in Italy, which means one!” said Mr. Carboni, dressed in a three-piece black velvet suit, holding up a solitary finger.
This year, the fair’s committee asked each gallery to organize its wares around a particular artist or idea. “We thought it would help us explain what is here if each gallery curated their booth either as a single artist or around a theme,” said Caroline Kerrigan Lerch, director of the Metro Show. Some galleries adhered to this edict more rigorously than others.
Gail Martin Gallery, a new exhibitor this year, chose “continuing traditions” as its theme, presenting antique and “ethnographic” (an unfortunate term used to describe old things made by non-white people) textiles from Peru dating as far back as 1,000 A.D., alongside contemporary fiber work by Polly Barton and James Bassler. In the fair’s tiniest booth, Fahey Bodell Stein/Umbrella Arts displayed work relating to the history of the East Village, 1980s through the present, that centered around a copy of Your House is Mine, a tome of hand-pulled silkscreen prints by artists like Chris Burden, Lady Pink and David Hammons that served as the manifesto of the squatter’s movement. The Ames Gallery worked with a figurative theme, displaying folk sculptures, wooden prosthetic legs and six big illustrations from a temperance lecture, showing the effects of “a long debauch” on the body.
Some dealers devised looser themes that allowed them to show their usual, eclectic assortments of antique signage, outsider art, furniture and folk art.
“We’re about crossover here. We’re about the crossover of folk, self-taught and outsider art into the contemporary mainstream,” said Frank Maresca, whose gallery brought a wonderfully alien-looking “tramp chest” and ink palm prints by Marianne Raschig, one of the premier palmists in Weimar Germany. The juxtaposition of similar objects he said, is “great, but it’s like being at a party with a bunch of your friends. This is like going to a party and everybody’s doing different things.”
Click the slide show above to see a selection of items on view at the Metro Show. The fair runs through Jan. 26.