Lucy Mitchell-Innes and The Art Show

James Gaddy

Two years ago, Lucy Mitchell-Innes was appointed the first female president of the Art Dealers Association of America, the organization that, among other things, hosts the annual Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory. The Art Show runs March 2 to 6, concurrently with The Armory Show. Mitchell-Innes has been an influential part of the contemporary art world since 1983, when she was appointed director of contemporary art in North America at Sotheby's. In 1996, with her husband, David Nash, she opened Mitchell-Innes & Nash, a gallery on Madison Avenue that represents a mix of masters such as Roy Lichtenstein along with contemporary artists like Martin Kersels and Amanda Ross-Ho. In 2005, the gallery expanded to a second space in Chelsea and joined forces with the respected dealer Jay Gorney, who has been working with, among others, mixed-media artist Jessica Stockholder since the 1980s.

This year, Stockholder will take over the entire Mitchell-Innes & Nash booth at the 23rd edition of The Art Show, presenting 10 to 12 new works. Her incorporation of chance elements, combined with the formal arrangement of household detritus, has influenced a generation of artists, an aesthetic recently codified in the exhibition Unmonumental at the New Museum in 2007. A sculptor with an eye for color and painting, Stockholder juxtaposes her cerebral process with emotionally charged subject matter that reeks of nostalgia—Tupperware-like containers, a chest of drawers, tulle, laundry baskets. In doing so, she creates a deliberate structuring of the physical world that goes beyond a clichéd critique of consumer culture, and one in which the assembly resembles something closer to the imagination of material life.

On the occasion of The Art Show, Mitchell-Innes sat down with us to talk about why the fair works the way it does and which exhibitions she is looking forward to seeing.

What's the easiest way to distinguish The Art Show from The Armory Show?
Lucy Mitchell-Innes:
There are some clear distinctions. The Art Show is a much smaller fair; it is only US galleries, [but] that's not to say that there are only Americans in the exhibition. The [Armory Show] is much more international, and it is much more contemporary, although that is changing for both them and us. We're becoming more contemporary and they're becoming more modern. We are a smaller fair because of the space. We never have more than 70 to 72 booths, and there's a general emphasis on thematic booths. This year, there are going to be solo booths of the work of Rachel Whiteread, Robert Motherwell, Gabriel Orozco. We encourage the galleries to curate their own booths because it's a fair that will take you maybe two hours to go through.

What was your thinking behind doing a booth with Jessica Stockholder?
We had never done a single-artist booth because it takes a lot of planning. She was supposed to do a show at the gallery uptown, and I said to her, "Why don't you do The Art Show fair? You've got this body of work. I think it'll give you a lot of exposure." And she's a tremendously respected artist. She said yes, so we gave her the dimensions of the booth and said, "You do what you want with it." She's going to make something very specific, a kind of hanging chandelier that will tie the booth together.

What are some of the other booths that you're interested in seeing?
Friedrich Petzel is doing a show with Maria Lassnig—she's [in her 90s], this very respected painter from Austria. And there are others: Kathy Butterly, Mark Manders, J.B. Blunk. Jill Newhouse is bringing a booth of eight busts of [Auguste] Rodin, with drawings, too. There's a pretty high level of expertise here. You're going to see what this group of people who have devoted their entire lives to filtering and editing are presenting as the best art, and I think you can be confident that what you're seeing here is very good and very thoughtfully presented. We know we can't be the biggest fair, and don't even necessarily want to be the biggest. We just want to have the highest-quality and the most thoughtfully curated booths.