New York fair Portal will not return to Governors Island after clash with trust over event space


Nonprofit artists group 4heads, which operates the the annual art fair and artist residency program Portal: Governors Island, will not return to the island this summer for the first time in 15 years after it was unable to come to an agreement with the Trust for Governors Island about the amount of space for 4heads to rent for the season.

Previously known as the Governors Island Art Fair, the “artists for artists” event first began in 2008 and was among the first art organisations on the island. Each year, 4heads would take advantage of the historic spaces on the island, particularly the houses on Colonels Row, which were first constructed for US Army generals. Until 1996, the island was a military facility, and only opened to the public in 2006.

“We are deeply saddened by the Trust’s decision not to invite us back to Governors Island this summer, a decision that is especially frustrating considering the tremendous value that our art fair has brought to the Trust over the last 15 years”, 4heads cofounders Jack Robinson and Nicole Laemmle said in a statement. “In many ways, the success of the Island as a summer destination developed hand-in-hand with the success of our fair”.

A representative for 4heads said that while the trust did offer space for the group to hold an event on the island again, they offered only outdoor areas that did not align with 4heads’ proposals, which outlined needs for artist residencies and space for a fair.

“At a certain point, an offer to let a handful of artists create a few large-scale outdoor sculptures is not worth it for the artists themselves or for 4heads. It was very clear that the message from TGI was: ‘We do not really want 4heads back for 2023”, a representative told The Art Newspaper in a statement.

A representative for Governors Island said that 4heads requested 5 houses on the island this season, which the trust was unable to accommodate as demand from other groups for exhibition space on the island grows. This year, TGI received a record 40 applications, but only had 22 houses available. The trust accepted 28 groups, some of which are only doing half of a season.

The representative said 4heads was offered space to continue their programming and a chance to discuss alternatives, but that the group declined to participate this year.

“We value 4Heads’ history with the Island and despite their choice to not present programs with us in 2023, we’ve expressed that the door is open to respond to future open calls and opportunities,” Trust for Governors Island spokesperson Sarah Krautheim said in a statement.

4heads is looking for an alternative space in New York to hold a fair that “continues to feature low application fees and an emphasis on showing a broad array of emerging, and under-recognized artists”, the group said.


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