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Located on a bustling commercial plaza in downtown Manhattan, the Aicon Gallery is a small part of the dynamic art scene in New York City. With only a singular physical location, this specific gallery represents all the work that Aicon does. According to their website, the gallery "specialize[s] in modern and contemporary non-Western art with a focus on South Asia, the Middle East and Africa" but the exhibitions of the past few years have focused heavily on South Asian art in particular. This gallery claims to be a "vital platform for artists from these regions to show in the United States," hoping to attract American collectors to sell diasporic art.

The gallery's focus on contemporary art exemplifies the many complexities of displaying non-Western art in the West. Most times, the artists are directly involved in the curation process and able to represent their work as they please. During a tour with Pam Gendron, the Exhibitions Manager, she explained that the types of artists or works displayed depend on the personal connections of the staff, a common but questionable practice in the arts sphere. For example, the director of the branch, Harry Hutchinson has a close relationship with Saad Qureshi, one of the exhibited artists. There are currently two exhibitions open at the gallery: One focusing on Qureshi and the other titled "Rockefeller + India".

The gallery is divided between two floors, with an exhibition on each. The entrance floor is one large room, with Saad Qureshi’s paper weavings on all walls. The skylight above the final wall perfectly lights up the weavings of divine trees, creating a wonderful viewing experience. The second floor can be accessed through a spiral staircase and is split into two rooms. This floor displays the Rockefeller + India exhibit, highling the various Indian artists that received the Rockefeller grant or were shaped by this influential NYC family.

The physical building floors also can also create a challenge for curators. Gendron explains how the lower floor is more typical of “a Chelsea gallery” while the upper floor has a “Upper East Side vibe.” This is perfect for the dual exhibition taking place at the moment, but Gendron explained how the small stylistic differences between the two floors can cause disruption in a flow for a larger exhibit. Although the two floors differ in these specifics, they follow the general "white cube" aesthetic. This style of displaying art has been a historical precedent in the West, aiming to minimize distractions and allow the viewer to focus completely on the artwork. The Aicon Gallery also chooses to not have provenance labels for most of their exhibitions, adding to the visual emphasis of the artwork. This style of display may be suitable for some artwork, but may arguably do a disservice to audiences who are less familiar with an artist, their work, or the context in which they create. Since the gallery exhibits for sale, their target audience is assumed to be one who is already extremely informed about the art styles, geographies and nuances of the work. If not, the Aicon Gallery relies on curious viewers to ask the available staff for any questions or peruse the website which holds a wealth of information.

The Aicon Gallery has created a space to uplift South Asian artists and include them in American high art. Unlike the other institutions reviewed in this project, which are museums, Aicon does not serve an educator role, but instead cater their exhibits to attract buyers and collectors, and our expectations as visitors should be adjusted as such.

Overall, although some questions were raised, I feel Aicon Gallery has contributed to an important role for South Asian fine artists to establish themselves in the U.S.


Insiya Motiwala studies Art History and Interactive Media at New York University. Her academic research focuses on property and labor in art, including collectivist craft based artwork, and museum administration. Her first hand experience of the textile industry during her childhood in Karachi, Pakistan has created a long standing interest in fiber arts as well.

Insiya studies art history and specializes in museum administration and art as property. This is reflected in her reviews as she highlights questions of management including the goal of a museum as well the role of the audience. Her work covers art spaces in NYC consisting of the many popular museums as well as smaller galleries. As a Pakistani immigrant, Insiya’s personal experience of South Asian art is through decorative folk art, textiles and other mediums that are not traditionally considered “high art.” She visited and reviewed a total of five institutions throughout the summer; Aicon Gallery, Rubin Museum, Met Museum, Asia Society Museum and Brooklyn Museum.

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