Here’s How Armory Show Head Benjamin Genocchio Aims to Shake Things Up
Can he deliver major improvements?
He’s compared the global Art Basel fair enterprise to a generic Marriott hotel, and he’s likened looking at art in a tent, as we do at Frieze art fairs, to eating chicken from a bucket. And now the new Armory Show director (and former artnet News editor-in-chief) Benjamin Genocchio has unveiled his plans to shake things up at the 22-year-old New York fair’s March 2017 edition.
The main change Genocchio plans is to tear down, to some extent, the wall between modern and contemporary galleries, which have for the last eight years been segregated. Contemporary dealers have set up shop on Hudson River Pier 94, while modern art dealers showing their wares on Pier 92, where foot traffic has in recent years been dramatically lower. Of the just over two hundred exhibitors at the 2016 edition, 56 were on the modern pier.
A distinction between the two piers will remain, though. The main galleries section, now including both modern and contemporary offerings, will be on Pier 94, while Pier 92 will house the “Insights” section, which will be solely 20th-century works. Some of the large-scale projects will also be on Pier 92.
Another step is the introduction of “Platform,” a sector that will consist of large works and performances, some of them new commissions, which will take advantage of the large industrial space and will be spread across both piers. This echoes sections in other fairs international and regional, like Art Basel’s “Unlimited” and Expo Chicago’s “In/situ.” Some previously unused parts of the piers will be put into use, say the fair’s organizers.
Bid goodbye to the geographic focus of the “Focus” section next year, which the fair has devoted to a new part of the world each year for the fair’s last seven editions (Africa and Asia got the nod in recent years, for example). Instead, that section will now invite a curator to select galleries that will show “new or rarely seen artworks” by “today’s most compelling artists.”
While other fairs (such as Art Basel and Frieze) are set on global expansion, heightening competition for attention and top galleries, not to mention deep-pocketed visitors, Armory has remained resolutely a once-a-year, one-city affair.
The previous director, Noah Horowitz, who decamped in 2015 for the position of Americas director in the Art Basel empire, strengthened the lagging fair, which its owners, Merchandise Mart Properties, had been offering for sale in 2012. The test for Genocchio is to see if he can build on Horowitz’s improvements, and he has done nothing if not set the bar high.
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