Upwards of fifteen art fairs occupyied the city with Armory Art Week. With so much art on offer and Wall Streeters freshly flush with another year’s bounty, the Art Newspaper made “Bonus time for art business?” its headline of their daily art fair issue. But that would make the Armory show seem like an endless lark timed only to cash in on the global recovery party.
It is not all fun and frolic for those participating in the show. Armory Week is the culmination of months of preparation; shipping, packing, crating, printing and pre-selling. However, when offered an excuse to indulge in a glass of champagne, who wouldn’t want to indulge? And, thankfully, the week has been full of opportunities to do so.
On Monday Art+Auction alongside Lehmann Maupin Gallery held a dinner at Bottino (the unofficial Chelsea cafeteria) where publishers, dealers and Armory and ArtBasel execs mingled. The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) opened its 23rd edition of The Art Show on Tuesday in a benefit evening for the Henry Street Settlement. The show was marked by its stress on quality and the bankable names on the artist labels. The selection was not unlike a good auction house sale.
Wednesday, which hardly felt like ‘the start’ of the fair to anyone at this point. The Vernissage saw masses descend upon the piers. A queue of taxis stretched all the way to 10th Avenue. This year the fair was large and displayed a diverse grouping of galleries with many international dealers and newcomers. A collector commented that overall though “some people are finding it a bit underwhelming compared to previous years, it’s now more about true taste and finding art you love, not just names you recognize.”
As the lights dimmed and people made their way out, I was happy to find a warm seat on a shuttle bus which transported me directly to the official Armory after party at the MoMA. Inside, magenta lights flooded the main hall as the Brit sensation Kate Nash performed while the partygoers (many of whom had chosen to skip the Armory) enjoyed Absinthe cocktails.
On Thursday, there were several openings for the satellite fairs scattered around the city. My pick was The Independent, a ‘temporary exhibition forum’ conceived of by Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook. In its second year, this invite-only exhibitor list challenged traditional art fair models with its sleek, curated feel and made up for much of the conceptual rigor lacking thus far in the week. Housed in the old DIA Center space on 22nd Street in Chelsea, it brought together an admirable selection – worth the visit for any curator or collector. The open space and relaxed atmosphere (along with a noticeable absence of fluorescent writing or pop iconography) were not surprising given that 28 of the 45 galleries were from Europe. Speaking with Freymond-Guth Fine Arts of Zürich, who were showing local Virginia Overton’s curved Beuys-ian strapped mirrors, they said they were delighted with the fair and the selection of such esteemed galleries and plan to be back next year.
My final guilty pleasure of the night was to stop by Paul Kasmin, whose artist Ivan Novarro’s neon wrought-iron fence is causing a stir at the Armory. Aptly named ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’, the eternally self-reflecting mirrored sculptures create an illusion that successfully coaxes spectators to stare into the void.
On Friday, Le Bain, the sky-high playground at the top of the Standard Hotel hosted a party for Ryan McGuinness to celebrate the series Women: The Blacklight Paintings. The party featured ‘interactive elements’ which consisted of nude, bodypainted dancers whose shapes mimicked the fluorescent figures covering the windows and walls. The event was produced by Country Club, a gallery well known for their innovative and site-specific projects.
The Armory festivities continued and crowds were steady over weekend bringing many important collectors back to the fair. As the intensity tapered off, I had a chance to walk around and actually appreciate the booths and some great international artists included in this year’s fair. South Korean Gimhonsok of Tina Kim Gallery staged the piece ‘Donkey’ – a performance intended to draw attention to wage disparity of illegal immigrants by having an underpaid South Korean laborer to lie inside the mascot costume for the duration of the fair, underneath a lavish Candida Hofer photograph, leaving the viewer with a harrowing feeling of self reflection. Striking a patriotic chord within me, the large scale Scott McFarland photograph hung at Clark and Faria booth which perfectly captured the essence of Canadian summers spent at the cottage, through the artist’s iconic merging of multiple images into a seamless photograph, evolving upon the Vancouver photoconceptualism school. On a much lighter note the Paris based Galerie Ropac featured the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm whose empty purple ‘Hoodie’ whimsically poked fun at our collective North American obsession with Bieber, and maybe the whole superstar-prodigy phenomenon which is equally as prevalent in art.