Booths Loosely and Tightly Curated at Metro Show

January 23, 2014 Updated: January 31, 2014

NEW YORK—For an art fair that covers ground from ethnographic to pop and ancient to contemporary, the Metro Show manages to hang together fairly well. This year it’s to the credit of a new strategy: each of the 35 exhibiting galleries was asked to choose a theme through which to “curate” its collection.

Some exhibitors developed the idea better than others, who did not bother to visibly post the placard explaining their theme. Those who did presented the most compelling selection of objects and artworks, allowing viewers to come away from their booths with a far richer experience than to browse a well-lit bazaar, which too often is the pitfall of art fairs.

As the Metro Show coincided with Americana Week, several exhibitors brought out their best American folk art. Just Folk from Santa Barbara, Calif. put on a “just Bill Traylor” show, highlighting 28 works from the iconic self-taught artist who was born into slavery. American flags and other historical memorabilia took center stage at Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, while Gemini Antiques displayed shelf upon shelf of American toys from the 18th through 20th centuries. Clifford A. Wallach Tramp Art, Folk Art & Americana featured furniture and frames composed of small pieces of stacked wood, a technique popular between the 1870s and the 1940s.

Ethnographic art dealer William Siegel from Santa Fe, N.M. and Native American art specialist David Cook from Denver drew parallels between ethnic textiles and abstract painting by mounting flat weaves and sarongs onto archival surfaces. Douglas Dawson, on the other hand, looked deep into objects’ origins and highlighted “the other African art,” specifically ceramics made by women, iron work, and beadwork, which are often overlooked by Western collectors more familiar with wooden masks and statuary.

Metro Show first timer C & J Goodfriend is headed by husband-and-wife James and Carol Goodfriend who deal in drawings and prints from their New York office. They managed to pack a survey of 500 years of art history (only Western art history, granted) onto the walls of their space, starting with prints and engravings from Albrecht Durer and Giovanni Battista Piranesi at one end and concluding with 20th century drawings at the other. The couple handed out an especially helpful brochure for beginner collectors of drawings and prints.

New York-based Allan Stone Projects featured a wide range of subjects: modern masterworks, contemporary art, tribal and folk art, Americana, and decorative arts and industrial design. Its booth reflected this eclecticism, albeit with a focus on the ceramic art of Dennis Clive.

With a just-below-overwhelming number of exhibitors and lectures, booth talks, and panel discussions, there’s something to grab anyone’s imagination at the Metro Show.

The Metro Show runs until Jan. 26 at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 W. 18th St). Admission is $15.