Armory Show marks centenary celebrations in style
This year’s Armory Show, a centennial themed edition rich in history and retrospection, has been one of its strongest, welcoming in an impressive 60,000 visitors over a five-day period.
New York’s leading fair for contemporary and modern art – indeed, one of the preeminent expos of its kind in the world – was celebrating 15 years of artistic brilliance, though, as is known, its story goes back way longer than recent times.
It saw over 200 carefully selected galleries deliver superb exhibitions and sales, the latter proving to be very successful indeed. Big names included David Zwirner, Gagosian Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, and Galerie Eva Presenhuber.
Noah Horowitz, Executive Director of the Armory Show, said that this year’s edition was remarkable for its fluid layout, which was the perfect complement to well-considered presentations and exceptional works of art.
“Local, national, and international collectors were out in force emphasising the strength of the art market with New York as its centre,” he added.
“Additionally, we are proud to have celebrated the centennial of our namesake, The Armory Show of 1913, through programming and special projects commemorating the legacy of the avant-garde in the United States.”
It was another indicator of the Big Apple’s ability to put on huge shows, and while size isn’t everything, that it can attract so many of the world’s most important galleries, collectors, investor and artists, is testament to its commitment to its past. It maintains a lot of integrity.
Many of the establishments that took part were certainly in a jubilant mood, with Glenn Scott Wright, director of Victoria Miro Gallery, commenting that this year’s Armory had been another success all around. It was, he explained an opportunity to “reconnect” with their clients, as well as to establish new links.
Meanwhile, Barrak Alzaid, director of Dubai’s Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, said that Armory had been a platform to promote the work of the emirate’s leading artists. Aware that this is the centenary year of Armory’s ancestor expo, he was keen to deliver a show that honoured this.
“We developed our concept in collaboration with our artists to create dynamic platform that responds to the spirit of the fair,” Mr Alzaid clarified.
“In 1938 Marcel Duchamp presented works in total darkness at an exhibition of Surrealists, and 25 years earlier jumpstarted a new wave of American art. At the centennial edition of the fair we are proud to have presented a booth concept in the spirit of this innovative sensibility.”
It wasn’t just all about exhibitions and sales, as there was interesting, forward-thinking and impassionate debates and arguments about art, past, present and future.
One such discussion from Sweden’s Moderna Museet, which was entitled “Posterity will have a word to say” looked at the development of today’s rich and complex art market. Duchamp, it appears, was clearly in the minds of a lot of people.
“Marcel Duchamp’s break from the politics of exchange and transaction is ever more relevant,” observed Daniel Birnbaum, director of Moderna Museet.
“To pursue questions of what the avant-garde looks like now versus what it meant to participate in the forefront of culture 100 years ago alongside fellow-panelists Carlos Basualdo, Paul Chan, Molly Nesbit and moderator Jan Åman was a privilege.
“To do so within the space of an actual art fair reflects The Armory Show’s careful willingness to reckon with what it means to serve as a commercial platform for the arts.”
Today’s version of the Armory Show was founded in 1994 by dealers Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris, however, it owes its philosophy, its spirit to the legendary Armory Show of 1913.
This was a monumental exhibition that was one of the most radical shows ever witnessed by Americans at the time, who were still used to realistic art. The European avant-garde was still unknown, and when they were came across works exuding styles like cubism, futurism and fauvism, they were shocked.
However, it was, as is nearly always the case, vindicated by history, and proved to be a powerful expo, one that would culminate in abstract expressionism, one of the most intriguing and pioneering art movements in history, and one, that originated from the US.
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