The Armory Show–Another Strong Year

Collector’s at the Armory Show

Yesterday, I posted an article on the PULSE Art Fair. The Armory Show is the most important American art fair and the largest fair held in New York that last weekend in March. There were ten art fairs that weekend and one would have to be a bit psychotic to attend them all if it’s even physically possible. It was all a bit surreal for me as it was the first time I attended one of these Art Fairs as a member of the media. Checking in with all the young writers from the fashion magazines and walking around with the editors of major art magazines made me feel a bit like Dorothy in Oz. This was definitely not Durango.

Roberta Smith wrote an excellent piece for the New York Times that ran on March 28, a few days after the press preview. Link to that article here.

Smith said that the Armory Show should have taken as their motto: “If you see anything interesting please let someone know immediately!”

Artist’s John Waters and Mary Heilmann at Armory Press Conference

The press conference featured Mary Heilmann and John Waters, who created limited edition prints to commemorate the 10th edition of the show. Waters 20″x 30″ C-print came in an edition of 45 + 15 APs and is a photograph of a sign that says: “Study ART for profit or hobby.” Heilmann’s Iris print is of an abstracted painters pallette dripping with white paint. The 35″ x 26″ print came in an edition of 45 + 20 APs. The prints started at $2,500 and benefitted the Pat Hearn and Colin de Land Cancer Foundation and the Pat Hearn and Colin de Land Acquisition Fund at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Armory Show was started by dealers de Land, Hearn and Matthew Marks in 1994 at The Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair. Its early incarnation was hosted by the Gramercy Hotel.

“In the hotel, it was a great moment to discover artists,” dealer Paul Morris said.

Artists like Takashi Murakami and Tracey Emin were discovered during this period in the Armory’s history. Today the Armory Show is a major corporation.

According to “Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., a unit of New York’s Vornado, owns the Manhattan armory show, as well as Volta NY, a smaller fair running concurrently at 34th Street and 5th Avenue, across from the Empire State Building. Vornado also owns Art Chicago.

Merchandise Mart, which Vornado acquired from the Kennedy family, develops market buildings and mounts more than 300 trade and consumer shows, conventions, conferences and special events each year, according to its Web site.”

While many dealers were nervous and anxious about the economy, post reports from Armory on April 22, 2008 reported capacity crowds and strong sales. No word yet if they surpassed the staggering 2007 sales figure of $85 million dollars.

Sean Kelly Gallery sold every Rebecca Horn they could get their hands on and a large work by Joseph Kosuth priced at $275,000. Greenerg Van Doren Gallery reported having the best Armory show since they began exhibiting with the sale of a Katsura Funakoshi sculpture and a new painting by Sharon Ellis. Cheim & Read sold several Jenny Holtzer pieces priced from $300,0
00 to $400,000. First time exhibitor
Galerie Urs Meile, sold a Li Song painting for $160,000 and Art in General sold 21 of 25 editions of Glenn Ligon‘s Self Portrait at Nine Years Old.

Lines stretched for blocks as 52,000 were in attendance to view work by over 2,000 living artists from 160 galleries and nonprofit organizations around the world. Exhibitors came from 39 cities and 21 different countries.

A few works that caught my eye:

  • Andrea Bowers “Memorial to one of the largest urban farms in America” at Susanne Veilmetter Projects Los Angeles
  • Tony Cragg Untitled wood sculpture at Buchmann Galerie

Thousands of artists are represented at this show and the PULSE and several artist are repeated at nearly all ten art fairs. Hot commodities. Much of the work seems similar and after a while it all blends together in a mass of white walls and colorful blobs. There was more painting at the art fairs than at the Whitney Biennial, though Mary Heilmann did get a few paintings hung at the Whitney. But I was left with the question, what’s with the giant licorice shoes?

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