SOFA New York Folds, SOFA Chicago Lives On


The Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair (SOFA), which took place every spring at the Park Avenue Armory in New York for the last 15 years, has been discontinued. SOFA Chicago, however, will remain in business. The 19th iteration of SOFA Chicago runs Nov. 2–4 at the Navy Pier’s Festival Hall.

“We had to pull the plug on New York,” Mark Lyman, SOFA founder, told A.i.A. by phone on Wednesday. “It got to be very expensive. The rent has tripled in recent years, and the economic formula for the show just wasn’t working.” Lyman is also president of The Art Fair Company, which owns the SOFA fairs.

The final installment of the New York showing was in April this year, and included 55 international galleries offering wares including furniture, ceramics, studio glass, turned wood and jewelry.

“The galleries that participate tend to be on the forefront of contemporary studio art and design, but that market is for works priced, tops, at about $300,000,” Lyman said, “and a lot of work is priced between $10,000 and $50,000. The galleries just weren’t positioned to pay the kind of rent that I have to charge to make it happen.”

New York dealer Michael Heller, speaking with A.i.A. by phone from his gallery today, regretted the fair’s closing but was not exactly in shock. “The SOFA show had a good 15 years, but the name of the show never gained traction in New York, and I don’t think the Armory was necessarily the right venue for the show. The Armory was intended to give it gravitas. But SOFA was a poor acronym that most people didn’t understand.”

“All the same,” Heller added, “it was always a good show for us, but we hope there will be another show that will take its place and be a bit more contemporary in its outlook.”

Though he did not yet have details, Lyman confirmed that he will organize another show. “My company, in conjunction with some others, will produce a new and different fair. It’s not SOFA at a different location.”