Plan Your Armory Week 2015 With Our Guide to the Best Art on Show
We've sorted through hundreds of invitations so you don't have to!
Armory Arts Week kicks off the spring season in New York, and at the center of it all is the Armory Show (March 5–8), the giant on the Hudson River piers. artnet News talked to dealers from far and wide to find out what they’re bringing and why, what they’re looking forward to in Gotham while they’re visiting, and what the VIPs will be up to (to get the skinny on VIP events, check out Your Art Agenda: 12 VIP Events During Armory Week. While you’re at it, take a look at What Top Galleries Are Bringing to the ADAA Art Show and What Are Top Art Dealers Bringing to The Armory Show 2015 and Why?)
The 17th edition brings together 199 galleries from 28 countries for a long weekend of selling, schmoozing, and networking. It’s the sun around which satellite fairs like Independent, VOLTA, Scope, and others orbit. As always, contemporary art reigns on Pier 94, while modern art is sequestered on Pier 92.
A pioneer when it launched in 1994, the Armory was struggling a few years ago, with a bloated exhibitor list and flagging quality. Art in America reported in 2011 that Merchandise Mart, the fair’s Chicago-based owner, had offered it for sale. Since then, under the direction of Noah Horowitz, the Armory has trimmed its exhibitor list from 274 galleries, improved the quality of participants, and upgraded amenities like its dining facilities. The fair drew some 65,000 visitors last year.
Market giants continue to reserve the big booths near the entryways, for best exposure to VIPs storming the piers at the preview. David Zwirner (New York and London) will be there with artists including Isa Genzken, Thomas Ruff, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Berlin’s Johann König Gallery is coming back after a long time away, with brand-new works by Camille Henrot—who wowed New Yorkers with her New Museum exhibition last year—as well as Tatiana Trouvé, who unveils a Public Art Fund project at Central Park on March 3. Johann König will also be bringing Monica Bonvicini, Katharina Grosse, and Annette Kelm.
Continuing to up its game, the fair enticed some esteemed exhibitors to sign on for the first time this March, including New York’s Andrew Kreps and Metro Pictures, as well as LA’s Regen Projects. It also hooked in New York up-and-coming dealer Rachel Uffner. Hip young guns James Fuentes, Higher Pictures, and LA’s Various Small Fires have also helped raise the bar in recent years.
“I did it in 2010 and I felt like it was a sinking ship,” New York dealer James Fuentes told artnet News (see 14 Young New York Art Dealers To Watch). He’s doing a solo presentation for the second year, this time with Berlin artist Berta Fischer. “We’re still trying to let people know who we are and what our program is about, and the best way to do that is through strong solo presentations.”
“I’ve known about Noah since he worked at the VIP fair, and I’ve always been struck by his intelligence and his disposition,” Fuentes added. “He was my point of entry. He’s done so much to reinvigorate the fair.”
New York’s Jack Shainman told artnet News that bringing your best merchandise to a fair is crucial because of the importance of first impressions (read about Shainman in our Most Admired Art Dealers of 2014). “When curators and collectors are first seeing an artist, it’s imperative that they see important works,” he said. He’ll put forth Iraqi-born artist Hayv Kahraman along with El Anatsui, Enrique Martinez Celaya, and Hank Willis Thomas.
The strategies of other dealers can be counterintuitive.
“We don’t necessarily bring the most salable things,” New York’s Marianne Boesky told artnet News. Art fairs are now so competitive, she said, that “you have to propose presentations that stand out to get accepted. We hope to use the fairs to introduce challenging artists. The things we can sell from our desk, we sell from our desk.”
Boesky, who’s been showing at Armory since its founding, will present ceramic works by William J. O’Brien; visitors can expect a dramatic sight. “We’re shipping 27 ceramic sculptures that we’ll show in a huge cluster, depending on how many can fit,” she said. “We showed 75 or 80 pieces at Art Basel Miami Beach a few years ago on large artist-designed tables in a different configuration, and this will be all new work, with a real frenetic energy.”
Galleries often customize their offerings to capitalize on major museum shows, and this year is no exception. Lisson Gallery, with venues in London and Milan and a Chelsea home under construction, is bringing the gallery’s newest artist, Egyptian Wael Shawky, who currently has a show at MoMA PS1 (see Puppet Jihad at MoMA PS1 Puts the Revelry in Extremism), along with stalwarts like Dan Graham, Julian Opie, and Jorinde Voigt. Beck & Eggeling of Düsseldorf and London’s Repetto will showcase Zero artists, including Enrico Castellani, Heinz Mack, and Otto Piene. The group was recently the subject of an exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum (our critic wasn’t blown away; see The Zero Group Scores a Big Goose Egg at the Guggenheim).
In turn, museums and galleries offer their heaviest hitters. VIPs will be treated to curator-led tours of shows like “The Forever Now” at MoMA (see Instagrammers Step on Oscar Murillo at MoMA) and the Guggenheim’s On Kawara retrospective (see What On Kawara’s Analog Wisdom at the Guggenheim Has to Offer a Digital World.)
In terms of young and challenging, though, the Lower East Side is the place to be; the fair coincides this year with the New Museum’s hotly anticipated triennial, “Surround Audience,” curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin. (See Is the New Museum Triennial Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?)
“Lauren is very keyed in to how artists are digesting new modes of visual perception,” said Esther Kim Varet, owner of Various Small Fires, who’s offering works by Amir Nikravan.
“The Triennial is really the exciting thing in New York that week,” said Kavi Gupta, whose gallery has locations in Chicago and Berlin. “They focus on finding fascinating new things.”
Gupta talked to artnet News amid simultaneous preparations for three fairs, having just finished getting ready for Art Basel in Hong Kong. With Jessica Stockholder, he was planning an installation that would exceed the size of his Armory booth and expects nothing but commercial success. “While the European market is struggling a bit, American collectors are voracious,” he said. Speaking of appetites, he’s organizing a private dinner featuring a menu organized by artist Mickalene Thomas and Windy City chef Michael Kornick.
Private events like the Thomas/Kornick affair are another essential aspect of Armory Week. Off the piers and away from the museums, private collectors open their homes each year to offer a haven for VIPs away from the bustle of sales. “People love to see what other collectors are buying,” said Boesky.
Among the favorites are Zöe and Joel Dictrow, who open their West Village doors to show off their collection of artists ranging from Gerhard Richter to Sarah Sze. Susan and Michael Hort have for 14 years attracted thousands of visitors a day to their Tribeca home, where guests ogle works by Thomas Houseago, Christian Rosa, Elizabeth Peyton, and Ella Kruglyanskaya, among many others (see Want a Peek Inside the Exclusive Hort Family Collection?).
While it’s all the stuff we all love to do, it adds up to a slightly frightful few days. Even for veterans like Shainman, the calendar is daunting.
“It’s great and it’s fun,” he said, “but the pace is brutal.”
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