Art on Paper: Manhattan’s Unique Medium-Focused Art Fair

by Claudia Fennell '24 on November 4, 2023
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Each year after Labor Day weekend comes to a close, New York City comes alive with a variety of different art fairs open to the public. As summer wraps up, the fall season offers exciting new opportunities to view new and creative artwork. One of the most highly anticipated fairs of the season showcases contemporary, innovative pieces all focused on the same medium: paper. 

From September 7 to September 10, Art on Paper returns to downtown Manhattan’s Pier 36 for their ninth annual showcase. A single day ticket sells for $35, while an all-inclusive pass goes for $65.

The fair was curated by the artistic director, Nato Thompson, an author, curator, and self described “cultural infrastructure builder,” according to his personal website. Thompson curated over one hundred galleries for viewers to observe. Each gallery showcases the art from a different artist or artist collective. What makes this fair so special is that all who participate must use the same medium of paper, but they each create unique and innovative pieces that stand out on their own. All art must include paper in some way, but artists are permitted to use other materials if desired. 

The fair includes all different forms of art, from large sculptures to small paper printouts. One exhibit, for example, is titled, Proposal for a Future Forest. It is a large sculpture, standing 12 feet tall at some points and spanning the width of a 30-foot room. The piece is made of paper, wood, and metal, and was designed site-specific to fit perfectly within the space. The sculpture is formed of long strips of paper and wood, stretching to create a wave-like form that makes the piece an immersive experience for the viewer. The artists gave an abstract description of their work, describing that their inspiration came from a photograph of a giant sequoia tree wrapped in metal foil to protect it from the wildfires in California. This juxtaposition of the natural tree covered in metal provoked an idea for the artists: “imagining a future filled with unorthodox juxtapositions of material.” By combining the paper and metal in this artwork, they are highlighting the individualistic characteristics of each material and simultaneously showcasing how wonderful they can be when brought together. 

Another exhibit being shown is titled NYC Ghosts and Flowers. This exhibit showcases glazed paper clay and is essentially a shrine to old New York. It is set up like a typical street memorial site would look, with over 300 objects about artists, musicians, and authors, all from New York City. Candles are placed below hanging posters of famous album covers and images of infamous celebrities, celebrating “old” New York City.

Art on Paper is a wonderfully unique collaboration of various artists and offers an interesting experience with art.