Alexander Forbes of Artsy opens his preview of the new, new Armory Show, a fair that has struggled to define itself in the new era of global art fairs, with this frank description:
“The yardstick when I came in was getting to the level of a Basel fair,” says Benjamin Genocchio of his remit one year ago when he became director of The Armory Show. The 47-year-old former art journalist came out swinging for the Swiss mega-fair and for Frieze. But in the weeks before the 2017 edition of The Armory Show, the first that truly bears his signature, a more demure Genocchio has emerged—and with him a revised strategy for the fair that he says plays to its strengths while rethinking what it means to be relevant in the current market. […]
“It was time that we took a broader look at the fair climate and asked how we could rewrite The Armory Show to today’s market conditions,” says Genocchio, characterizing the market as “choppy” at present.
While data on primary market performance in 2016 is yet to be released, judging by auction sales and the prices being paid on the secondary market for young artists’ work, 2016 likely followed the downward trend experienced in 2015. If the market did contract, it’s not to say that some or even many dealers aren’t still doing well. But, according to Genocchio, all are feeling the squeeze.
“Every single dealer that participates in this fair, whether they are a billion-dollar business or a dollar business, is price-sensitive at this point in the market cycle,” he says. “They’re aware of the costs of participating in the fair. They’re trying to save money. And they don’t want to take unnecessary risk.”
He sees it as his responsibility as director to facilitate that more conscious, business-like spending by his clients.