Armory Show’s Noah Horowitz Jumps to Art Basel as Head of Miami Fair

Tens of thousands of visitors flock to the Basel fairs annually.

Noah Horowitz.
Photo: Patrick McMullan.

Noah Horowitz, who since 2011 has been with the annual Armory Show (he started as managing director and is currently the executive director), the art fair that brings hundreds of dealers to New York each spring, is headed to fair giant Art Basel as director of the Americas. He’ll take up his new job in August, overseeing Art Basel in Miami Beach and reporting to Art Basel director Marc Spiegler.

“I was very impressed with what he’d done at the Armory Show,” Spiegler told artnet News by phone from the Swiss Alps, where he was on vacation. “He was dealt a very tough deck of cards, but the show has been invigorated by being tightened up but also his focus on the audience and his ability to bring in a truly global dimension, for example with his with Focus sections that turned to regions like Asia and the Middle East.”

Horowitz has orchestrated a dramatic improvement in the Armory Show since he took over. The fair was widely perceived to be on the ropes, with a bloated exhibitor list and subpar amenities, and even the year after he arrived, it was up for sale, as reported by Art in America. But since then, Horowitz has trimmed the number of dealers participating and the quality of work on view.

“I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done in New York but it’s a New York institution that alights just once a year in March, while Basel is a 365-day-a-year organization,” Horowitz told artnet News by phone. “The Miami fair is quite a bit bigger, and everyone’s in town that week. That’s a great step up in terms of responsibility.”

Horowitz earned a PhD in art history from London’s Courtauld Institute before heading up the VIP Art Fair, a short-lived online-only event that encountered many technical glitches and left dealers grousing about unsatisfying sales figures.

Art Basel just held its 45th edition in Switzerland, where dealers reported a tsunami of sales. In 2002, it expanded to Miami Beach, and in 2011 it bought a 60-percent interest Hong Kong’s Art HK fair—it had its first outing as Art Basel in Hong Kong in May 2013. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to the fairs annually.

Art Basel in Miami Beach is perhaps known as much for celebrity attendees, including collectors like Leonardo DiCaprio and performers like Miley Cyrus, who gave a Jeffrey Deitch-organized concert in 2014. But Spiegler is confident that the stars don’t distract from the art on view.

“Yes, there’s a lot of social events going on, but great galleries and great museum directors see very strong work there. A lot of observers felt that the work on view in 2014 was the best ever. Dealers know that it’s worth bringing great work there because they will meet great patrons there. There’s room for both, with all the hotels and restaurants springing up there.”

The art fair circuit is increasingly crowded, with, for example, the inaugural Seattle art fair taking place this month. Do the organizers see these new fairs as competition?

“I don’t see all these other art fairs as a problem for Art Basel as long as it remains strong,” Spiegler insisted. “They’ll all create new collectors and reinforce the collecting that is going on in the areas where they take place. For instance, we’ve never had as many British collectors coming as we have since Frieze. As long as you stay at the top of the game, everyone will want to see what the fuss is about. As long as we stay at the top of our game, the more, the merrier.”

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