Just a few weeks ago, as New York City’s May art fairs were rapidly approaching their openings this week, Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly hadn’t yet decided whether to stage their biannual Spring/Break Art Show, known for its affordable, quirky offerings.
But with lightning speed, the husband-and-wife artist made a snap decision to return to the indie fair’s original venue at the St. Patrick’s Old School in Soho with work by 124 artists.
“We put a call out about two and a half weeks ago,” Kelly told Artnet News. She and Gori decided to host a new edition of what they call “Spring/Break Immersive,” an event in the style of a group show, rather than an art fair with individual booths.
It’s a testament to the community of artists and curators that Spring/Break has built over the last 11 years that the exhibition was able to come together so quickly. Dubbed the “Secret Show,” its veteran participants—including longtime Spring/Break regulars such as Chris Bors, Anne Spalter, Marie Salomé Peyronnel, and Maureen Sullivan—were eager to make it happen even while in the midst of other projects.
Janet Loren Hill, who has participated in past editions as both an artist and a curator, was hard at work finishing eight pieces for her solo show “Origin Story,” which opened at Tribeca’s Kapow Gallery on May 5, when she heard that “Secret Show” was happening. She ended up contributing a work of her own to the impromptu edition of Spring/Break, as well as pieces by eight artists she works with, including Farwah Rizvi, Deric Carner, Becky Bailey, and Courtney Stock.
“Ambre and Andrew said ‘if you want to curate more than five people, just submit the form a few times.’ I love that they’re so trusting,” Hill told Artnet News. “They bring together this amazing amalgamation of a contemporary art moment—it’s genius.”
Thomas Martinez-Pilnik, meanwhile, brought work to the Old School straight from his recent senior thesis show at the University of Connecticut. He got word that the show was happening from Taylor Lee Nicholson—the two had side-by-side booths at the most recent Spring/Break Los Angeles, Nicholson’s curated by Hill.
Their work was again in close proximity in New York, on the second floor in what Martinez-Pilnik had dubbed “the vice room” due to the preponderance of works featuring cigarettes. There were his larger-than-life fuzzy rug hooked sculptures, each priced at $750, and Nicolson’s tiny glazed ceramic cigarette butts piled on a patch of artificial turf for $200, as well as sculptures by Mary Gagler and Emily Marchand.
“Spring/Break is such a community, and they do a really great job of bringing people together,” Martinez-Pilnik said. “This is a fun little variety show.”
For Nicholson, there had been no doubt about making the drive up from North Carolina, freshly fired sculptures in tow, even with the short notice.
“This is my first time in New York in five years, and my first time ever in an art context,” they said.
Meanwhile, curator Ben Finer, of Kishka Gallery and Library in White River, Vermont, had already been planning to make the trip to New York this week for personal reasons when he got the call from Gori and Kelly. His booth with Megan Bogonovich had been one of the hits of Spring/Break’s 2022 show in New York, with 95 of 98 of her Seussian porcelain ceramics finding new homes.
Naturally, he was happy to bring a few of her newer, larger works along for the ride.
Then, Gori and Kelley asked exactly how many sculptures Bogonovich had ready to go. Bringing all 30, plus the workbench tables on which to display them, became something more of a production, but Finer’s pickup truck was thankfully up to the task.
Art dealer Claire Foussard, on the other hand, is based in New York, but works primarily with Inuit artists, who she showed at Spring/Break Los Angeles back in February.
“When Andrew and Ambre reached out about this, I was like ‘I definitely can’t get that much stuff from the Arctic this fast.’ So I set up studio visits with New York artists who I used to work with or I wanted to work with,” she told Artnet News.
She wound up showing three New York artists—Clare Gemima, Sei Smith, and Jiwon Rhie—and Inuit artists Pitseolak Qimirpik and Tim Pitsiulak, a celebrated community leader and artist who died of pneumonia at just 49 in 2016, due to poor healthcare access in the Arctic.
Filmmaker Sara Driver, meanwhile, had just done a studio visit in Bushwick with Cate Pasquarelli at the suggestion of a friend, the artist’s step-aunt, and been blown away by her surreal paintings of upturned houses.
A repeat Spring/Break curator since 2014, Driver emailed Gori and Kelly to share the work of the recent Cooper Union grad. Next thing Driver knew, Pasquarelli was in the “Secret Show” lineup—and Gori hopes to show more of the artist’s work, priced here from $1,700 to $4,800, at the fair’s main edition in September.
“Secret Show” marks the second time Spring/Break has revisited the Old School, which hosted its first two editions in 2012 and 2013 before the building was sold and its classrooms converted into condos. But Kelly and Gori always stayed in touch with the church—which maintains a community space in the building—and staged a pop-up show there during their main Armory Week event in 2018.
The fair has carved out a unique identity by taking over unused real estate, whether that be empty office buildings, a former post office, or an old terminal market. The unusual venues can prove a challenge to the artists and curators, who have to transform the space. By comparison, “Secret Show” was a low-lift affair, with artists and curators dropping off the work and trusting Gori and Kelly to do the rest.
“I love the spontaneity of what Ambre and Andrew do,” curator Renee Riccardo, who was showing a tech-inspired collage work by Rhonda Wall for $2,800, said. “They have a great eye. It’s almost like a potluck where everyone throws something together, and it turns out magical in the end.”