05/19/2009 04:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Con Ojos Abiertos, Pinta Art Fair Opens in New York City

Money may come and money may go, but the art world will always love a party. That couldn't have been more evident than at the lively opening of the Pinta Art Fair in New York City. Every aisle was packed and Spanish echoed off the walls as the well-dressed crowds made their way through the stalls. The expected effects of the economic crisis were not avoided here, though: VIP perks were pared down, like a lounge located downstairs instead of in full view, and collectors ate "hors d'oeuvres" of popcorn and dried fruit with their hands out of rather populist buckets. Informal research indicates that big money purchases were infrequent, with most red-dots alongside less expensive drawings and editions. Perhaps those with big bucks are saving their pesos for Christie's and Sotheby's Latin American auctions next week.

Billed as the "Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Fair", Pinta aims to exhibit artists representing a wide range of perspectives throughout recent Latin American art history, but last year's selection was safely tilted toward galleries specializing in mid-century classics like Fernando Botero and Jesús Rafael Soto. In their second year the organizers were more even-handed, accepting smaller and younger international galleries to exhibit their cutting-edge contemporary artists. Their commitment to this is most evident in the expansion of the fair's space, now extending into the Alterman Building next door to the main room of the Metropolitan Pavilion. This off-shoot space houses the works of some of the most solid contemporary artists in the whole fair, such as Ivan Navarro with Galería Moro (Chile) and Nicola Constantini with Galería Sicart (Barcelona), and also showcased a live painting/performance by young Puerto Rican/Cuban artist, Sofia Maldonado (Magnan Projects).

The main hall provides a stimulating and rare art fair experience, allowing viewers to connect the references in contemporary works with their predecessors, hung practically side-by-side. Kinetic works like Julio Le Parc's are echoed in the electronically controlled pieces by Elias Crespin (Cecelia de Torres Ltd.), while Latin American Conceptualism reverberates in Lina Leal and her hand-drawn tissues layered in plastic Kleenex boxes (La Cometa). As you might imagine, designating these artists by their geographical and cultural similarities can be a pain for someone attempting to create works independent of that part of their identity, preferring to be considered in the same realm as European or Chinese artists, for instance. While there are some of the ubiquitous skull drawings and generic photo-realistic paintings found in other young art, plenty of these artists succeed at standing out on an international stage. If your budget is too tight to include a trip south of the border this winter, the $20 admission fee is well worth the opportunity to check this all out for yourselves.

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