New York’s Amory Show, the fair for modern and contemporary art, returned to Piers 92 & 94 from March 5-8 presenting works by over 1,500 artists from 199 galleries across the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Going further to record exhibitor applications, a host of new and returning major galleries, an exemplary VIP program, and an ambitious curatorial initiative, the show cemented itself as New York’s leading art fair, spearheading a week of satellite events, major museum openings, and gallery presentations.
Exhibitors across Piers 92 & 94 received plaudits from visiting Museum groups including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) and the Hirshhorn Museum (Washington DC), while Pier 94 – Contemporary galleries commented on the steady flow of collectors from across the United States and internationally. A key work by Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, Attese, 1968, closed for $2 million on the first public day at Cardi (Milan).
Solo booths had a particularly emphatic presence at the 2015 fair. Galerie Kamel Mennour (Paris), returning to the Armory after a 10-year absence, presented a retrospective of Daniel Buren, with sales going to American private collectors and institutions. Alison Jacques Gallery (London) presented a 50-year survey of Irma Blank, with sales and curatorial reception exceeding expectations. Buoyant sales and museum interest was also reported in the Armory Presents section of the fair, which features galleries less than ten years old, with many galleries selling most, or all, of their booths.
Andreas Gegner, Director of Sprüth Magers (London, Berlin, Los Angeles) was happy to report on the sale of several Jenny Holtzer pieces, including works from her ‘Redacted painting’ series and marble footstools carrying her famous ‘Truisms’, noting that “The Armory Show seems to have gained further momentum and re-established itself as a strong force in the US market and international art fair circuit.”
Several galleries across the board expressed pleasure at both the successful establishment of relationships with well-informed collectors and the renewal of old connections as well, indicating the chance to reach more diverse audiences. As Carl Hammer, of Carl Hammer Gallery (Chicago) stated, “I am always impressed by the sophistication level of New York City collectors – they are so well informed and knowledgeable about the work; they treat collecting at the fair very seriously.”
Meanwhile, gallery director from the Pier 94 – Contemporary section Johann König, of Johann König (Berlin), observed the connection to the physical space: “This year’s Armory Show strikes with a great lay-out which leads to a very focused experience. The result is great sales.”
Pier 94 – Contemporary housed a special international Focus, with invited 15 galleries from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (Focus: MENAM), curated by Omar Kholeif, and realized in partnership with Lead Cultural Partner, Edge of Arabia, and Education Partner, Art Jameel.
With new and recent works from a range of artists on display, Kholeif commented, “Not only did we create a new acronym with this FOCUS, but also a new way to look at and think of art from the broader context of the Middle East and its regions. Being able to see so many different generations of artists together from the MENAM region in this great cultural city with such an engaged and lively public has been one of the proudest moments of my professional career to date.”
This year’s Symposium, The Way Things Can Go, organized by Fawz Kabra, Assistant Curator, Abu Dhabi Project, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (New York), hosted two days of dialogue and exchange which ranged in topic from how regions are created and defined to how the economy and culture of the artistic landscape in the MENAM region is influenced and shaped.
A series of special projects were also presented at the fair. Dispersed throughout Piers 92 & 94, the Armory Commissioned, British-Lebanese artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan presented the multi-media work, A Convention of Tiny Movements, 2015, as well as Renderings for a New Age of Eavesdropping, a limited edition artwork benefitting The Museum of Modern Art (New York).
Jack Shainman, Director of Jack Shainman Gallery (New York), noted that “What was special for us this year is that we were able to draw connections to other parts of the fair, such as the MENAM focus through our presentation of Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman, and to Artsy’s Armory booth, which this year collaborated with Hank Willis Thomas to present an interactive installation.”
On Pier 92 Modern thematic booths were especially strong this year with a presentation of works from the Zero Group at BECK & EGGELING (Dusseldorf) and Setareh (Dusseldorf), a showing of prints and gouaches by Bridget Riley from 1986 – 1995 at Sims Reed Gallery (London), and works from the Gutai group at Whitestone (Tokyo). Additionally, an important work by Adolph Gottlieb, listed for $1.35 million, was sold at Antoine Helwaser Gallery (New York) on the closing day.
Artsy, the online leading resource for art collecting and education, again hosted the definitive online and mobile guide to The Armory Show as Digital Partner. Collectors contacted exhibitors to inquire about for-sale works over 900 times through the site. As the fair’s long-standing technology partner, Artsy expanded its offerings for learning about and buying art at this year’s Armory Show.
Artsy also invited artist Hank Willis Thomas to transform the Artsy booth in the Pommery Champagne Bar, into an interactive, text-based environment activated by the camera flash on visitors’ mobile phones. As an extension of the installation, Artsy distributed 2,000 limited-edition tote bags designed by the artist to fairgoers. The project was part of #ArtsyTakeOver, an ongoing series for which Artsy invites contemporary artists to re-imagine spaces at art fairs.
In addition, the Armory Show also hosted its first Instagram Meet-Up and the premier of Arty’s new Instagram campaign #ArtWorldSpaces on Thursday, March 5. With over 30 bloggers attending for a special preview and breakfast, the meet up was an exception social media partnership and will be sure to be repeated in 2016.
This year’s VIP Program included multiple tours of key private collections housed in New York including the collections of Jarl and Pamela Mohn, Joel and Sherry Mallin, and Joel and Zoë Dictrow, and curator-led tours of exhibitions including the New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience, in which Lawrence Abu Hamdan the Armory Commissioned Artist is included, On Kawara–Silence at the Guggenheim Museum and Egon Schiele: Portraits, an exhibition at the Neue Galerie. The Museum of Modern Art hosted the Armory Party celebrating the opening of the fair and the launch of Armory Arts Week, with a performance from acclaimed American singer Kelela, and DJ sets by Business Class (Lawrence Abu Hamdan), E*vax (Ratatat), and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend).
Carl Freedman, of Carl Freedman Gallery (London) complimented both the atmosphere and aesthetic of the fair, summarizing the effect of the event:
“Art fairs work best when they have a buzz, and the Armory had it this year for sure. It’s a fair with a venerable history, and in the hands of the new management they have reconfigured it and got the magic balance of size, spacing and quality of galleries right. It’s like a much loved friend that had lost its way is back in town and doing really well.”
Photos Courtesy of Artsy.