The 2020 Armory Show Will Dedicate One Pier Entirely to Special Curated Sections for the First Time

As Pier 92 awaits repairs, the fair will once again take place on Piers 90 and 94.

Jody Paulsen work presented by SMAC Gallery at the 2019 Armory Show. Photo by Teddy Wolff, courtesy of the Armory Show.
Jody Paulsen work presented by SMAC Gallery at the 2019 Armory Show. Photo by Teddy Wolff, courtesy of the Armory Show.

In an effort to create a more cohesive viewing experience, the 2020 Armory Show will dedicate the entirety of one of its two piers to curated projects for the first time, the New York art fair announced today. The show will once again take place on Piers 94 and 90, following a last-minute move this year when Pier 92 was found to be structurally unsound.

Pier 94 will host the fair’s main gallery sections, while Pier 90 will be entirely dedicated to special thematic presentations organized by leading curators Nora Abrams, Jamillah James, and Anne Ellegood.

“As far as I understand, Pier 92 will be renovated, but it’s still to be determined when that happens,” Armory Show director Nicole Berry told artnet News. In the meantime, the fair is playing it safe and sticking with the more recently renovated Pier 90. (Both Piers 90 and 94 “have been checked to make sure that they’re structurally sound,” she confirmed.)

The shift will likely mean slightly fewer galleries than usual—the current floor plan allows for 17 fewer exhibitors than in 2019, said Berry, although the final number is subject to change. She hopes the new approach to Pier 90 will “provide a unique perspective and experience through a curatorial lens.” Bringing in high-profile curators to organize thematic sections at art fairs has become increasingly popular—Frieze New York had no fewer than five current or former museum directors involved in special presentations this year.

Aerial view of Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan’s New York, where the Armory Show takes place.Photo: via Armory Show.

Aerial view of Piers 90 and 94 in Manhattan’s New York, where the Armory Show takes place. Photo courtesy of the Armory Show.

For years, the Armory Show held a special modern section on Pier 92. The fair did away with the Modern/contemporary divide in 2016, but Berry thought more could be done to present a fully integrated vision.

“In the past, it was branded as two different experiences. Now, you need to see both piers to really understand the whole show,” said Berry. “I can compare it to what Ralph [Rugoff] just did in Venice with the Arsenale and the Giardini,” where the same artists showed different works across the two venues.

The newly organized fair will feature three curated sections: Focus, Platform, and Perspectives, which will replace the old Insights section dedicated to Modern art. Curated by Nora Abrams of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Perspectives will be dedicated to historical work examined through a contemporary theme.

“Nora has experience with historical material, but as a curator at a contemporary art museum, she is able to make those connections in a really smart way,” said Berry, noting that visitors will now find Modern art on both piers.

Joining Perspectives on Pier 90 will be the Focus section, curated by Jamillah James of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and featuring solo- and dual-artist presentations. Platform, which will include large-scale installations and performance artwork spread across both piers, will be led by Anne Ellegood, senior curator of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. All three sections will be complemented by the third-annual Curatorial Leadership Summit, chaired by José Carlos Diaz, chief curator of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

Following this year’s last-minute relocation, there was concern that well-heeled collectors wouldn’t necessarily walk the three blocks south from Pier 94 to Pier 90, prompting Berry to introduce a shuttle between the two venues. “I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it went,” Berry admitted. “I heard time and time again, ‘oh, it wasn’t that far!'”

It’s possible that sympathy for inconvenienced dealers was a factor in encouraging visitors to go out of their way to visit. But Berry hopes the new structure will make it clear that both are integral to the Armory Show as a whole.

“We want to ensure that there is equal traffic on both piers,” said Berry, who sees curated sections as an added draw. “People are going to a lot of different fairs and we want to provide something that they don’t see at every fair.”

The Armory Show will take place at Piers 90 and Pier 94, 711 12th Avenue at West 55th Street and West 48th Street, March 4–8, 2020.


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