Former Armory Show Director Will Run New Art Miami New York

Katelijne De Backer. Photo: MG Vander Elst.
Katelijne De Backer. Photo: MG Vander Elst.

As Art Miami expands to New York in its 25th year, the newest addition to Frieze Week has named former Armory Show head Katelijne De Backer as its new director.

Art Miami New York will be held on May 14–17 at Pier 94, best known in the art world for hosting the annual Armory Show, which moved to the piers in 2001 after outgrowing its historic venue at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and a one-year stint at the Javits Center. As executive director of the Armory Show, De Backer orchestrated that fair’s migration west, and has firsthand experience launching a fair in the waterfront space.

Since departing the Armory in 2011 after nearly 12 years on the job, on the eve of the launch of competitor Frieze New York, De Backer has held several posts, most recently as the director of exhibitor relations at SCOPE. Now, she will take on Frieze directly, launching a brand new venture in her old digs. “It’s just an amazing opportunity to go back to that place [Pier 94] because I know it so well,” De Backer told artnet News. “Art Miami has such a good reputation, and I’m very happy to be involved with them.”

Art Miami New York will join an already packed Frieze Week schedule, but De Backer sees that as a positive. “There are so many collectors that will come to town, especially from abroad, that I think it’s good for the city to offer different sort of fairs and events.”

Though it’s only been a few years since she was last at the helm of a major New York fair, the art scene has admittedly experienced many changes. De Backer sees it all as cyclical, pointing to examples such as the fall of Art Chicago and rise of Expo Chicago. “When Frieze came to New York, it was a new fair and it was exciting and being on Randall’s Island was exotic. Now some galleries are going back to the Armory Show. Nothing is set in stone,” she added.

“Starting a new fair is always exciting because it’s new,” enthused De Backer. First on the agenda for the new director will be finalizing a list of exhibitors. The application process is already well under way, and a committee will review potential dealers before making final selections.

“Our organization is very pleased to have Katelijne join the team as the director of Art Miami New York,” said Art Miami executive vice president and partner Nick Korniloff in a statement, calling De Backer “a seasoned art fair veteran” who “will bring the experience and additional important art market relations that have consistently delivered for the organizations and galleries she has worked for.”

As if one new venture wasn’t enough, the coming spring art fair season looks to be especially busy for the Art Miami team, which has also announced the New York debut of CONTEXT New York, which got its start in Miami in 2012. The New York edition will run March 5–8, concurrently with the Armory Show, at Pier 36 (see “Nick Korniloff Reveals Plans for New Manhattan Art Fair“).

The two Manhattan fairs follow last year’s Downtown Fair, which debuted at the 69th Regiment Armory during Frieze Week last year. Art Miami purchased Downtown, originally known as the Downtown Armory Fair, seizing the opportunity to host its first foray into the New York city art fair scene. (Art Miami also runs the annual Art Southampton on Long Island’s East End.)

Although Korniloff was pleased with the success of the Downtown Fair, calling it “a great first time show,” he found that “the reality was that there was no room for growth.” Even securing the 69th Regiment venue was not a given, with the close of the Harlem Armory and privatization of the Uptown Armory. “Their first priority is the Military and not an art fair—it remains a fully operational armory.” Hosting the fair on the pier “allows us to provide expected collector services and amenities during one of the most important weeks for acquiring contemporary art in America.”

While there will certainly be new challenges involved in making Art Miami New York a success, De Backer is looking forward to at least one element of the fair that will be different than her days running the Armory: in May, “you don’t have to pray for good weather.”


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