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By Rachel Small 

Whether a person is buying or not, art fairs are great for perusing the latest and greatest on the market. In essence, they’ve become sprawling pop-ups with a blend and diversity of work impossible to find or replicate elsewhere.

But the format of art fairs has stubbornly adhered to small booths set up for barely a weekend–not the best opportunity to create innovative or memorable displays. Independent Projects, which opened as an art fair on Friday, and continues as an exhibition, is an attempt to resolve the conflicting interests of visitors, artists, and galleries alike. “I think one of the common frustrations with most art fairs is that they tend to resemble trade shows–these uniform booths and long corridors,” says Independent Projects’ creative advisor Matthew Higgs, also the director of White Columns. “It doesn’t really mirror the kind of experiences artists create when they make exhibitions in galleries or institutions.”

Part of this was an open plan throughout its floors. “You get these fluid relationships between one gallery and the next,” says Higgs. Mike Kelley at Skarstedt Gallery and Raymond Pettibon at David Zwirner, for instance, flow into one another, which “mirrors the fact that they were friends and peers.” Virginia Overton, Haroon Mirza, and Liam Gillick also created site-specific installations. “The idea really is to create an environment that artists are excited about, because we want to privilege the artist’s work.” New artists are pitched alongside established artists and even some outsider artists; Brooklyn and downtown galleries coalesce with blue chip Chelsea mainstays.

A few galleries chose works that would have been impossible to showcase at traditional art fairs, both for lack of space and for the art being a tricky sell. Among these are Joan Jonas’s After Mirage at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, comprising of large tin cones and video, and David Medalla’s Cloud Canyons at Venus Over Manhattan, made of what resembles plastic smokestacks emitting white foam.

Read on for our 10 picks to see at Independent Projects during its exhibition portion, which is up through Saturday, November 15 at 548 West 22nd St. in New York. 

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