This year's Armory Show, the annual fair that ushers in the fall arts season by bringing the international art world to New York, began on a night when the air in the city baked those who dared to set foot outside. Among them was Nicole Berry, the Armory Show's Executive Director who welcomed an intimate group of people within the spiraling walls of the Guggenheim Museum two days before the show opened to the public at the Javits Center.
Clad in a bright green dress and sneakers, Berry said words of enthusiasm and excitement of the upcoming show while guests enjoyed cocktails and light bights throughout the lobby before a private viewing of the current exhibitions, Gego: Drawing in Space and Sarah Sze: Timelapse. Among those guests were notables such as Venus Williams and Anderson Cooper, collectors like Diane Allen and Has Nguyen, and artists Genevieve Gaignard and Alok Menon. It was a soft beginning to a thunderous next few days.
This year, Berry enlisted three women curators to help bring the show together: Eva Respini (Vancouver Art Gallery), Candice Hopkins (Forge Project), and Adrienne Edwards (Whitney Museum of American Art). "Despite their distinct backgrounds and curatorial expertise, Adrienne, Candice, and Eva share a common interest in challenging the established norms of art history," Berry told T&C. "Candice has established herself as an advocate for Indigenous artists, particularly through her involvement with the Forge Project. Eva demonstrates a keen awareness of artists who challenge the conventional art historical canon, as evidenced by her curation of the US Pavilion at the previous year's Venice Biennale, featuring Simone Leigh. Adrienne's work at the Whitney Museum, notably her contributions to the Whitney Biennial, showcases her talent for highlighting artists with exceptional work that might have previously been overlooked by art history."
Their diverse backgrounds manifested in the representation of 225 international galleries and 35 countries throughout the different booths at the show. There were the Berlin solo exhibitions of Dittrich & Schlechtriem, and the Dirimart gallery from Istanbul. Galerie Frank Elbaz Gallery from Paris was nearby, and the Maki Gallery from Tokyo.
Admittedly, the overall setup was a bit of a visual overload, as if one was looking through a kaleidoscope the entire time (but, most art fairs are). Aside from a few gimmicky installations, there were moments of beauty worth appreciating. Martha Tuttle's Family and Friends (Peter Blum Gallery) manipulation of gossamer fabrics was one and Celia Paul's January Sky (Victoria Miro Gallery) was another. Artist Héloïse Chassepot (Tara Downs Gallery) presented paintings of mesmerizing swirling movements. Works by Pat Steir and Josef Albers were also present and added a sense of aesthetic control amid a cluster of the complete opposite.
It is a selling fair, after all, and there was great success in that regard. A Lynne Drexler painting sold for $800,000, an Alice Baber painting sold for $200,000, and a patinated bronze sculpture by Woody De Othello for $400,000. A Painting by Siji Krishnan was sold to a private US museum for $80,000 and nine new paintings by María Berrío made specially for The Armory Show presentation (with prices ranging from $65,000–$200,000) were sold to another collector.
Aside from the skyrocketing headline pricetags, Berry and her team were mindful of fostering the art ecosystem and were adamant about supporting young collectors and young talent. Tucked on the far right of the fair was a series of booths that housed not-for-profit galleries such as the Aperture Foundation, which is dedicated to photography. There was even the Lower East Side print shop, a not-for-profit printmaking studio in New York City, which has been a beneficial organization for contemporary artists since 1968.
"Our Presents section, designed for galleries younger than a decade, serves as an accessible entry point for new collectors. Presents is always one of the highlights of the fair," Berry says. "We feel the future is bright and only getting brighter."
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