New York recently hosted on its Piers 92 & 94 one of the most prestigious art fairs in the United States. 210 galleries from more than 30 countries displayed the works by artists they represent and attracted the attention of approximately 65.000 thousand visitors, from Thursday, March 2nd, until Sunday, March, 5th. In many ways, the annual fair that has been established in 1994, has presented fresh ideas while reflecting the current taste and appetites of the world's most prominent art collectors.
A few short notes on the Armory Show
In its 22nd year, The Armory show is currently one of the most influential art fairs in the world that can be compared to the Art Basel show. Every March, since 1994 artists and galleries from all over the world present themselves to the New York art audience on Pier 94 that has traditionally accommodated the artwork from contemporary artists throughout the years.
Sprüth Magers’s booth at The Armory Show, 2017
Pier 92 has always been dedicated to the masters of modern art, which is why this art fair is a unique cross-section of the modern and contemporary art. This year, in addition to 210 galleries, the fair also included 'Insights', 'Focus', 'Presents' and 'Platform' programs that each in its own way contributed to creating the general image of the past and present of modern and contemporary art.
This year's curator of 'Focus' program was Jarred Gregory, who titled his selection of the seldom seen works by some of the most important artists of our time, 'What is to be done'. The pieces featured in Gregory's selection come from 12 different artists and they reflect their view of the current state of affairs in our society and in politics.
Jeffrey Gibson, Our Freedom is Worth More then our Pain, 2017, at Roberts & Tilton Gallery.
The executive director of The Armory Show, Benjamin Genocchio issued the following statement about this year's show and the upgrades that he and his team patiently worked on:
'The Armory Show team has spent the last year listening to our gallery clients and visitors, and in response, we have made many radical changes and improvements to the show. These are reflected in greatly expanded VIP and visitor services as well as, I am proud to say, the strongest exhibitor list in several years,” He added that: 'Two new curated sections and an updated floor plan with more spacious aisles and larger booths will make for a better, more enjoyable show.
Patrick Jacobs, Double Fairy Ring with Dandelions (2012), Pierogi’s booth.
As the new executive director, Genocchio faced more than a few challenges because the economic situation and the political atmosphere in the US resulted in a more conservative approach to purchasing the works of emerging artists.
The art collector's taste
Despite the obvious depression of some parts of the auditorium, many galleries reported that they made good deals during the four-day art fair. In the past, the event reported the sales of up to $85 million, however, this year's numbers seem to be significantly smaller. The political turmoil, the fear of president Trump's actions and the frequent talk of budget cuts to the National Endowment for Arts created a somewhat unfavorable atmosphere for buyers.
A portrait of Thelma Golden by Mike + Doug Starn at Wettering Gallery
Stefan Von Bartha of the Von Bartha gallery from Basel said:
'If you always get bombed with negative news, why would you be in the mood to go buy luxury goods?” It’s great that the stock market is up and all of these things, but the general idea of your president, especially in Europe, is highly negative.'
Anila Quayyum Agha, Shimmering Mirage, 2016, Aicon Gallery.
Despite all these factors, most galleries reported at least one sale per day while some galleries sold artworks for more than $100.000. Von Bartha gallery, that had only six exhibits in their boot sold Imi Knoebel's Anima Mundi 26-5, a five-part painting for approximately $100.000, and another painting by a German abstract painter.
The buying frenzy, that characterizes Art Basel and similar art fairs, was not so strong at the Armory Show this year. However, the director of Los Angles based Anat Egbi gallery Stefano Di Paola confirmed that his gallery sold four of eight Martin Basher paintings within just 48 hours.
Martin Basher, TBT, 2017, Anat Ebgi gallery
Most galleries set their prices in the range between $10.000 and $50.000 with the purpose of avoiding the risk of failing to sell the top-tier value works. The focus of this year's The Armory Show has been more on young and emerging contemporary artists than on masters of modern art.
The need for beauty and intelligence
Art fairs offer something more than just an opportunity to buy the elite works of art. They fulfill the need for beauty and intelligence in our lives and give us an overview of the state the art world is in.
Abel Barroso, Emigrant’s Pinball, 2012, at The Armory Show, 2017
2017 The Armory Show's new Platform section focused on large-scale installations and artworks that brought a much-needed breeze of fresh air to the art fair. It was curated by the Sotheby's vice president of contemporary art Eric Shiner who commented on his intentions on the opening day:
'I wanted to break the monotony of the art fair. I wanted to create a few moments of surprise, respite, and energy, just to let people take a pause for as long as they can.'
The works by Yayoi Kusama, Fiete Stolte, Abel Barroso, Patricia Cronin and Ivan Navarro offered exactly what Shiner promised, an element of surprise and energy that allowed the visitors to take a moment and absorb the powerful messages conveyed by these works.
Yayoi Kusama, Guidepost to the New World, 2016, at The Armory Show, 2017.
Read Arthrive publication Ten facts about Yayoi Kusama, to get all things you should know about the famous 89-year-old Japanese provocative painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and performer and her unusual way of life and avant-garde work.
This year's The Armory Show continued to follow the course set in the previous years and must be regarded as an improvement from the last year's show that lacked both sales and the vibrant energy of the featured works. Its international atmosphere remains one of its strongest points because it brings together galleries from all continents and artists who create works in completely different mediums and styles.
Nick Cave, Hustle Coat, 2017, Jack Shainman Gallery.
2017 The Armory Show was a success despite all the surrounding factors and leaves us to await the next year's edition with much enthusiasm because it is still one of the most exciting exhibitions in the world that give us an insight into the world's contemporary art scene.