Founding Curatorial Advisor
Founding Partner, Brussels
2018 Guest Curator, Brussels
New York Director
Assistant to the New York Director
US Press Contact
BE Press Contact
Independent was conceived and initiated in 2009 by Elizabeth Dee, Darren Flook, Matthew Higgs and Laura Mitterrand, with a consortium of like-minded commercial and non-profit galleries. The first edition took place in the former Dia Center for the Arts and former home of X Initiative at 548 West 22nd Street. This was the first fair to take place in a former museum, a landmark building in Chelsea’s gallery district. The inaugural edition included 40 international exhibitors in March 2010.
Following the critical success of the first three editions, in 2014 Independent launched Independent Projects—a two-week platform of solo exhibitions during New York's auction week in November 2014.
In 2016, Independent relocated the New York edition to Spring Studios in Tribeca. As the founding visual cultural partner of Spring Studios and Spring Place, Independent joins the ecosystem of Tribeca Film Festival as the two public events to take place annually in this location.
2016 also marked Independent’s expansion to Europe. Independent Brussels was inaugurated the same year at the historic Vanderborght, a former department store in the center of Brussels, Belgium. The project was founded by the City of Brussels in collaboration with founders Elizabeth Dee and Laura Mitterrand. This unique partnership with the Ministry of Culture and the City of Brussels has allowed for further support of the European ecosystem for galleries internationally.
The fair has supported a year-round Belgian gallery residency program (Independent Régence) which hosts exhibition programming in Brussels in collaboration with Independent's extended gallery network. Now in its third year, in 2018 the program will expand beyond its original location to a citywide format.
"We were trying to find a solution to these narrow, persistent problems of fairs and how they assist galleries in terms of their economies and how they function. There’s a reluctance of many galleries to take part in fairs, but it’s like a catch-22— they’re obliged to take part, but they find them unsatisfactory in terms of a place to see art, or a place for artists to present their work. The idea was to really create something of a hybrid— something that wasn’t exactly a fair, although there was a commercial aspect, and wasn’t exactly an exhibition, though it perhaps resembled one.
"We also wanted to break down some of those hierarchies that exist in the art world between the blue-chip galleries—the galleries that do resale, the more established commercial galleries—and the emerging young galleries, and then also the galleries that are outside of those narratives. For me, it was an interesting opportunity to create space for all kinds of art, a marketplace for all kinds of art, where you’d see things alongside one another that you perhaps wouldn’t typically encounter elsewhere. I don’t think one could necessarily say that it’s a curated exhibition, but it’s definitely a curated forum or curated platform. From the outset, for me, it was very interesting to have more ‘maverick’ dealers included in the mix."
from the first edition of Independent, March 2010:
Part consortium, part collective, Independent lies somewhere between a collective exhibition and a reexamination of the art fair model, reflecting the changing attitudes and growing challenges for artists, galleries, curators and collectors.
The individual concepts for presentation are met with custom spaces that are curated in relation to one another, allowing for dynamic conversation between the exhibitions, participants and visitors.
The international list of participating galleries, independent curators, publishers and nonprofit spaces was developed through personal invitations from the founders, the advisors, and, ultimately, the participants themselves.
This approach has allowed the project to evolve through conversations, collaborations and shared conceptual arrangements as opposed to the application process that typically characterizes the contemporary art fair.
Through this ongoing interaction, the participants have entered into a consortium rather than a transactional arrangement with a governing party. Structured as a transparent financial cooperative, the collaborative process of Independent allows for both financial efficiency and the creation of more ambitious projects.