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Gallery Owner Allison Barker Gives Us Her Frieze Week Faves

We’re big on tapping our art world favorites for their opinion all things Frieze Week. This time we turned to Allison Barker, founder of ABXY LES, one of our favorite galleries downtown. Barker gives us the lowdown on the NYC art scene, her favorite gritty bar and Conversation Derelict her newest show with artist Corey Wash. 


AZ: Coffee or tea?

AB: Coffee. Iced. Lately with oat milk.


AZ: Ultimate art fair outfit?

AB: Comfortable shoes are a must, so I start with sneakers or a comfy boot and work up from there. Always love a Ref slip dress with a sweater or an oversized blazer. I like to layer with something I can tie around my waist if I get hot (and still look cute).


AZ: You never leave home without…

AB: Business cards, statement sunglasses, a Juul charger.


AZ: How would you describe NYC’s art scene in 3 words?

AB: Hard n’ Fast.  


AZ: What are some of your favorite art institutions in NYC?

AB: Depends on the day (there’s so much!), but The New Museum has two AMAZING shows up right now: Nari Ward and Jeffrey Gibson. On the gallery side, if you end up in Chelsea don’t miss Jose Parla at Bryce Wolkowitz.


AZ: You’re the founder of ABXY in the LES, what is it about the LES that drew you to open your gallery there?

AB: The Lower East Side is alive. In my opinion, it’s the last neighborhood with any character left in lower Manhattan. The art community here is amazing. It’s empowering to be surrounded by so many passionate young gallerists and curators. I’m in love with the work they’re doing at Karma, Rachel Uffner, Spencer Brownstone, James Fuentes, Richard Tattinger, and Participant.  Plus, we’ve got Perrotin (who opened a 25,000 square foot, three-story space on Orchard Street in 2017 and represents the likes of KAWS and Daniel Arsham).


My ultimate favorite gallery neighbor (and idol): Salon 94. They have Marina Adams up right now. If you’re into abstract painting, don’t miss it.


AZ: After a long day at the gallery, where can we find you?

AB: Lucien or Minnie’s.


AZ: Favorite hotel bar? Favorite hole in the wall?

AB: Hotel bars: Day-to-day the Lobby Bar at the Bowery. Dog-friendly, always feels like home. Special occasion: Public Rooftop (views, views, views). Late night/guilty pleasure: The Blonde at 11 Howard. Jazzy Sunday vibe: The Carlyle.   


Hole in the wall…. Parkside. Full disclosure: it’s real gritty. But there’s a photo booth, pool tables, jukebox, a two-person PacMan table…and a theater in the back where you can usually catch something fun and weird. Slam poetry competitions. That kind of thing.


AZ: Public artwork in NYC that everyone should check out?

AB: The High Line just put up an enormous Simone Leigh sculpture. I’m obsessed with this artist. Her show at Luhring Augustine last fall totally blew me over. The work on the Highline is called Brick House. It’s a sixteen-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman whose torso is conflated with the forms of a skirt and a clay house. Brick House is the first work in Anatomy of Architecture, the artist’s continuing series of sculptures that combine architectural forms from regions as varied as West Africa and the American South with the human body. 


AZ: Uber, taxi, Ferry or subway.. how are you getting to Frieze?

AB: Ferry, it’s part of the experience. Rain or shine. I count it as “nature time,” and can always use more of that.


AZ: Tips for art fair newbies going to Frieze?

AB: You will encounter (some) nature. If it rains, ‘twill be messy.’ That’s where sneakers are your best bet. Pre-pop your Claritin.



AZ: Your latest show at the gallery is with Corey Wash. Give us the deets.

AB: It’s called Conversation Derelict and it’s all about why – in this technologically interconnected, globally wired world – we can’t seem to collaborate on saving the planet. In the midst of the information overload we experience every day, Corey’s cartoon depictions of contemporary life cut right through the noise. Satire at its finest. There’s painting, music, animation, site-specific installation, and sometimes my French bulldog, Gordo. Corey made all the work while pregnant. #sHERO. On view through June 9.

AZ: What do you have coming up?

AB: This summer I’m showing a female photographer named Arden Surdam. For me, Arden’s photographs re-contextualize the grotesque realities behind our gendered, classified, racially dissonant traditions and reclaim them as acts of brute grace, evidence of strength in confronting oppression. The exhibition is titled Offal, the entrails or internal organs of animals used as food. Nobody does gross as gorgeous as Arden.


In addition to her recent photography, we’ll have a Donut Shaped Algae Tank filled with Spirulina. Opening late June.


AZ: How can we stay in touch?

AB: Instagram: @abxyles. Website: For inquiries on available works check us out on Artsy or email directly.