The Armory Show Recruits Veteran Museum Curators for Next Year’s Fair

Gabriel Ritter of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Jen Mergel, formerly of MFA Boston, will helm sections at next year's fair.

Studio Drift project at Pace Gallery at this year's Armory Show. Credit: Photo by Teddy Wolf, courtesy of the Armory Show.

The Armory Show has recruited two veteran museum curators to organize special sections for its 2018 edition.

Gabriel Ritter, the head of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, will take on the fair’s Focus section, dedicated to solo- and dual-artist presentations. Jen Mergel, an independent curator who until recently was the senior curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will oversee a section devoted to large-scale and site-specific artworks.

Gabriel Ritter. Courtesy of The Armory Show.

Next year, the Armory Show will also launch a curatorial leadership summit chaired by Naomi Beckwith, a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. More than a dozen curators will convene for the summit, which will coincide with the fair, to brainstorm fresh ideas and discuss challenges facing the field.

The appointments reflect a growing trend in art-fair management: In recent years, it has become a status symbol—if not a requirement—for name-brand fairs to hire museum curators to helm special sections. While some observers have questioned whether curators of non-profit institutions should be freelancing for for-profit entities, others have noted that the gig enables curators to identify new talent and make extra cash without putting additional strain on institutions’ often-limited budgets.

Jen Mergel. Courtesy of The Armory Show.

“Ultimately, we selected curators that have strong institutional affiliations and experience building collections in the United States,” says Benjamin Genocchio, the fair’s director, in a statement. All three initiatives strive to “place artists and curators at the center of the fair once again,” he adds.

Both the Focus section and Platform, which debuted last year, will expand in 2018. (Focus will double in size.) The two new recruits replace Jarrett Gregory, a curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and former Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner. The pair, which organized the two sections last year, will not return for the fair’s 2018 edition.

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