The Armory Show Is Launching a New Annual Prize That Allows One Gallery to Participate for Free

The launch of the Gramercy International Prize marks the fair's 25th anniversary.

An impromptu group photo captures some of The Gramercy International Art Fair’s first exhibitors and artists from 1996. Courtesy of the Armory Show. Photo: Sylvie Ball.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of four New York gallerists—Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris—decided to launch an art fair in the Gramercy Park Hotel. Tracey Emin slept in one of the rooms, which doubled as White Cube’s art-fair booth, and dealers were under strict instructions not to place any nails, tacks, or screws in the walls.

A lot has changed in the ensuing years—the expanded fair, now a fixture on the annual art-fair calendar, got a new name (the Armory Show), a new locale (Piers 92 and 94), and a massive following. But in honor of its humble roots and the dealers who shaped it, the fair is launching a new award for up-and-coming galleries to mark its 25th birthday. 

The Gramercy International Prize—an homage to fair’s original name, the Gramercy International Art Fair—will give a free booth each year to one New York-based gallery that has never participated in the event before.

A balloon by Takashi Murakami flying above the Armory Show in 2002. Courtesy of the Colin de Land collection, 1968-2008, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

“The founders came up with an alternative platform to showcase artwork that was challenging and important and not always easy, commercially, to sell,” Nicole Berry, the executive director of the Armory Show, tells artnet News. “We wanted to do a tribute that was meaningful, something that could continue on in the spirit of the contributions that they made to the New York and the international art community.”

The inaugural winner of the award is Ramiken, a hip gallery that has shown the work of young artists like Lucas Blalock, Wyatt Kahn, and Diamond Stingily. The gallery, which is returning to New York after a brief stint in Los Angeles, will be given a booth in the fair’s special 25th Anniversary section, next to tributes to two of the Gramercy International’s four founders, Pat Hearn and Colin de Land. Ramiken will present a two-person display featuring wall-mounted sculptures from Andra Ursuţa’s “Vanilla Isis” series and mixed-media paintings by Darja Bajagić.

The gallery was chosen by a jury of five New York art world mainstays, all of whom participated in the first iterations of the fair and many since: collector and advisor Stefano Basilico; independent curator Clarissa Dalrymple; Nicole Klagsbrun, the founder of Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery; Andrea Rosen, the founder of Andrea Rosen Gallery; and Lisa Spellman, the owner and founder of 303 Gallery. Each jury member nominated three galleries, bringing the total number of shortlisted candidates to 15—a “small, but very strong pool,” Berry says. The galleries were all invited to submit proposals for a solo or two-person presentation.

Nicole Klagsbrun with Sarah Morris and attendees at the 1994 Gramercy International Art
Fair. Courtesy of the Armory Show. Photo: Sylvie Ball.

Of those, Ramiken was chosen for its “very bold and political proposal,” Berry says. “The jury felt like it reflected the original mission of the fair, supporting artists that are making challenging work—in the same spirit that Pat and Colin’s programs did.”

56 Henry, a Chinatown gallery that represents artists like Al Freeman and Cynthia Talmadge, was a close runner-up.

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