A Week Before Opening, the Armory Show Art Fair Must Relocate a Third of Its Exhibitors Due to Safety Concerns

The emergency situation has thrown the New York art fair's 25th anniversary edition into last-minute crisis mode.

The piers. Photo: The Armory Show.

Just over a week away from the opening of its 25th anniversary edition, the Armory Show art fair is in crisis mode, forced to suddenly relocate nearly a third of exhibitors due to structural defects in its location at New York’s Pier 92. As a result, the event’s organizers have decided to postpone the Armory Show’s concurrent sister fair, Volta, and move the affected Pier 92 exhibitors to the adjacent Pier 90—placing them a shuttle-ride away from the fair’s marquee contemporary-art booths in Pier 94 on New York’s far West Side.

Organizers first learned of the situation when the city’s Economic Development Corporation contacted the fair’s parent company MMPI at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to say that “significant portions of Pier 92 are not structurally safe, and we’re not able to access nearly the entire pier for the fair,” Armory Show director Nicole Berry told artnet News.

A spokesperson for the EDC, which maintains the piers, confirmed that “following a routine inspection, we discovered structural issues at Pier 92. We are currently conducting further analysis at the site.”

The move will impact the roughly 60 galleries that were participating in the fair’s Focus, Insight, and Projects sections located on the pier. “Everyone who is being relocated will have some sort of reimbursement,” said Berry, though “we haven’t yet determined what that will be.”

Only a small part of Pier 92 will remain open during the fair. The portion built over solid ground that does not stretch into the Hudson River will now hold the VIP dining area and will act as a “point of connection” between the two piers, with shuttles waiting outside to ferry visitors to Pier 90 “one minute” away. A covered walkway will also connect the piers.

Armory Show Executive Director Nicole Berry. Photo credit: Teddy Wolff. Courtesy of The Armory Show.

Armory Show Executive Director Nicole Berry. Photo credit: Teddy Wolff. Courtesy of The Armory Show.

“Obviously the safety of our visitors, the artwork, the collectors, the exhibitors is of the utmost importance,” Berry said. Pier 94, where the rest of the fair’s 194 exhibitors are located, will “feel no impact” from the move, she added.

As for the sudden displacement of Volta, MMPI’s fair devoted to emerging artists, Berry said the decision was made together with its director, Amanda Coulson. All of Volta’s 78 exhibitors and sponsors will be “fully reimbursed,” according to an Armory Show spokesperson. A new date had not immediacy been set for Volta NY’s next edition.

Because Pier 90 has essentially the same footprint as Pier 92, the spokesperson says the affected Armory Show exhibitors’ booths will require only “slight variations.” Unlike the aging Pier 92, the nearby Pier 90 has undergone a full renovation. “It’s a very nice pier,” Berry said.

VOLTA NY at Pier 90 in 2016. Photo: David Willems, courtesy VOLTA.

In a statement, Volta director Coulson said that the decision to postpone her fair could not be helped. “With only 11 days until install… all considered situations were at best ad-hoc and would not continue the high production value that is expected from our brand,” she said, noting that her team will now turn their focus to Volta’s upcoming Basel edition in June.

This Friday, the fair’s organizers were in a headlong scramble to alert exhibitors (and sponsors) of the change in plan, create new signage and collateral materials, and arrange for additional staff to route visitors from pier to pier. Asked whether the fair’s insurance policy would cover the added expenses, Berry referred questions to MMPI, a subsidiary of Vornado. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Founded in 1994 in the Gramercy Hotel, the Armory Show has grown to become New York’s marquee homegrown art fair, hosting blue-chip galleries from around the world every spring. Dramatically enough, this fraught 25th anniversary edition marks Berry’s first year in charge of the fair from start to finish, having replaced former director Benjamin Genocchio in late 2017, a few months before last year’s edition, after he was dismissed in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations. Central to her vision has been her desire to more closely fuse the programming on Piers 92 and 94, which had previously been split between Modern and contemporary art galleries.

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