Collector's Edition: Armory Arts Week '10
Arts & Entertainment
by Michael Slenske, 02/16/2010
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Art insiders spend their whole lives traveling from fair to fair—Venice, Basel, Miami Beach, London—but each March they return to New York for Armory Arts Week. "With Basel, in Miami, it's like the whole world moves [there] for one week, but for the rest of the year it's not really an art city," says Katelijne De Backer, longtime director of The Armory Show. "New York is the center of the art world." The former MTV producer may have a bias, but she's also right: now in its 12th iteration, the annual mega-fair (March 4–7) is back with what might be its strongest lineup yet. Despite the recession, 56,000 people attended last year's festivities—there were 52,000 the year before—thanks in large part to the introduction of The Armory Show – Modern, an innovative secondary marketplace held at Pier 92 that showcased modern and contemporary works from private collections. "At the fair last year, the people who particularly loved the Modern section were collectors and artists, which I thought was interesting," says De Backer. "They'd come to me and say, 'It's so great because it adds to what you've already done and puts a reference to it.'"
The response was so overwhelming that De Backer and company are bringing Modern back to Pier 92—this time with a more international scope. One point of interest will be Bologna's Galleria d'Arte Maggiore's spotlight on Italian still-life master Giorgio Morandi, the subject of a 2008 Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective. Of course, with a dozen concurrent fairs competing for attention, simply referencing the past and present isn't enough. "Every year I think next year it's going to be so easy. We had it right, we had the crowds, everybody was happy," says De Backer. "But every year I think it's more difficult because we're always aware we have to keep bringing in new ideas to make it better." As a result, The Armory is looking to the future with the introduction of another fair-within-the-fair, Armory Focus:Berlin.
Envisioned as a dialogue between the city that's become the white-hot center of the creative class and New York's collector base (and similarly vibrant Lower East Side gallery scene), the show will bring together a mix of 22 upcoming, mid-career and established galleries from the German capital. To put them all on a level playing field (that of Pier 94), they will exhibit single and multi-artist shows within booths of the same size, regardless of their relative stature back home. Says De Backer, "What we saw in Berlin was the same energy and atmosphere that was happening in New York around the time the fair was founded."
Inside the main fair, also on Pier 94, the energy will be equally palpable. At the David Zwirner booth, instant photos from Philip-Lorca diCorcia's solo exhibition 100 Polaroids (similar to his raved-about Thousand exhibition last year) will be on sale for about $5,000 a pop; the outside of the booth will be covered in prints from his pole dancer series Lucky Thirteen; and from Heads, a series of portraits of strangers taken from long distances. Also worth a look are the offerings from Lower East Side galleries like Small A Projects, RENTAL, Eleven Rivington and Simon Preston, who will have some engaging video installations from Irish photographic animator John Gerrard that depict the desolation of the modern American heartland—in real-time 3D, of course. If all this adds to the frenzy, Brit sculptor Susan Collis hopes to slow it down with the minimalist pieces De Backer commissioned to create a visual identity for the fair. (For more, read our interview with Susan Collis.)
Beyond Piers 92 and 94, the museum and gallery scene will be bustling with the 75th Whitney Biennial opening the week prior, not to mention William Kentridge delivering the eighth and final installment of the Museum of Modern Art's Performance Exhibition Series (March 4), a Joseph Beuys exhibition bowing at PaceWildenstein (March 5), "interventions" by various artists in the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda at the Guggenheim, and the free Target First Saturdays programming at the Brooklyn Museum (March 6), where Kiki Smith's multimedia, site-specific exhibition Sojourn examines the female creative process. "Armory Arts Week has really grown over the years. The whole City—from small nonprofit galleries to big museums—has become engaged with it," says De Backer. "The ADAA fair even moved their dates to our weekend," she says, referring to the Art Dealers Association of America event. "I'm sure part of it was to benefit from the crowds we attract, especially the international crowd."
Almost half the dealers at last year's Armory Show were from Europe, and the ADAA Art Show (where you'll find solo exhibitions from artists Roxy Paine, Nancy Spero and Martin Kippenberger) is not the only concurrent fair taking advantage of the international crowd. Volta NY, which is owned by the same company that owns The Armory Show, will feature more than 80 artists from across the globe. Expect video, performance and conceptual work to have an increased visibility. Notably, Colombia's Maria José Arjona will be presenting documentation of a new work that "explores the body's potential to create new languages" (she is also slated to perform at MoMA for the retrospective Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present). Meanwhile, Red Dot, a boutique fair with a focus on photography and painting, is moving to a new space at Chelsea's Skyline Studios. Highlights include a site-specific woven cellophane installation by Paris-based sculptor Ludwika Ogorzelec and a mystical collage depicting Latino heritage by Cuban-born painter Alejandro Mazón.
"Last year, galleries were being very safe in what they brought—no daring or crazy things," says De Backer, noting she's seeing more exhibitors mounting one-artist, gallery-defining displays. "One I really loved two years ago was Jenny Holzer at Cheim & Read. It's a little bit risky for a gallery to do that because if it's not successful you might end up selling nothing, but if it is, it might be really great." Whether this statement-over-sales trend makes it to Armory Arts Week 2011, only time will tell.
For more information, visit armoryartsweek.com.
Hotel offer: book your NYC stay with participating hotels and receive a complimentary pass to The Armory Show plus a VIP shopping envelope from Bloomingdale's. For more information, visit nycgo.com/styleandscene.