Between the eccentric fashion choices, unbounded creative energy, bizarre inflatable installations, whirlwind of paintings and sculptures, and the sound of a beating drum curiously humming in the background, walking through the 2016 Armory Show feels a bit like being in the circus. With over 200 gallery exhibition booths offering the best in modern and contemporary art, unless you’re a collector with a very specific idea of what you’re looking for, the experience of attending the show can be overwhelming. In a space that’s simultaneously crowded and airy, and overflowing with creative talent, it becomes difficult to connect with and appreciate a work of art. You leave with only a blurred conception of the colors and warped textures of the works you’ve just seen. Here are a few things you should know about this year’s Armory Show, lauded as New York City’s largest international art fair.
The Big Guys
The Armory Show was established in 1994. Year after year the show presents collectors with the highest quality modern and contemporary art represented by leading galleries from all across the globe. As usual, this year’s show is divided into two main parts.
The first half takes place in Pier 92 and features 55 galleries presenting a rich collection of the work of legendary 20th century artistic masters including Pablo Picasso, Frank Stella, and Alexander Calder. It is in this space that you will find the historic reconstruction of Joan Miró’s studio in Mallorca, Spain. The exhibition space features a treasure trove of the original furniture, painting materials, and household items from the artist’s studio, as well as 22 of his masterful paintings and drawings. Also on view in this section are some of Edvard Munch’s and Pablo Picasso’s coveted prints, presented by the John Szoke gallery.
Right accross the aile from the reconstruction of Miro’s studio are the ethereal still life paintings by Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi (whose work is on view at the Center for Italian Modern Art until June 25), presented by Galleria d’Arte Maggiore G.A.M., from Bologna.
Some galleries, such as the Cecilia Torres gallery which typically showcases the masterworks of Joaquin Torres Garcia, have decided to use The Armory Show as an opportunity to spotlight the works of his student, Francisco Matto. “We really wanted to show what comes after the legacy of Torres,” said Susana Temkin, Research & Archivist Specialist at the gallery. In addition to his oil paintings, visitors can also experience Matto’s wooden totems, which were originally photographed on a beach setting.
Only in New York
As you and the other visitors march down the steps of a rattling metal stairwell, and pass through Sung Jang’s thicket-like Mobi installation (consisting of stacked modular elements), you are finally led into the vastness of Pier 94. This immense space features Contemporary art from 113 galleries representing some of the most sought-after artists of today. Some, such as the Francesca Minini gallery from Milano are participating in the show for the first time. “It’s only the first day, but we’re happy so far. We’ve met a lot of interesting collectors,” said Alessandra Minini.
After participating in numerous international art shows over the past ten years, Minini has noticed a difference in the audiences that each show caters to. “We have visited the [The Armory Show] over the past four years and we feel that it has improved in terms of the quality of the work and presentation. We participate in Art Basel Miami and we really wanted to participate in a New York art fair. In Miami you have a lot of people from South America and Europe who like to go to Miami in December because it’s a good season. Here it’s more American. It’s more for people who live here, not only in New York, but in the United States,” she explains.
Among the Italians are the works by Ettore Spalletti, presented by Vistamare gallery. Last year Spalletti’s paintings where shown in an exhibit side by side with those by the previously mentioned Giorgio Morandi.
In 2010 Armory Focus was established. This is a section of the show that each year celebrates a different region of the world. In 2015 the focus was on the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, while the year before that spotlighted the arts of China. This year, curators Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba have chosen to showcase the contemporary art of Africa. With about 58 countries, 3000 cultural groups, 2000 languages, a myriad of religious beliefs, and a dynamic landscape, the continent of Africa is home to the most genetically diverse population on Earth. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the art produced by its people is so wildly diverse in terms of medium, aesthetic, meaning, and production. The artists whose work is presented in this section come from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds. Some are painters, others photographers and performers. Some were born in Nigeria, while others were trained in London. Through a selection of 15 galleries from Nairobi, London, Berlin, Seattle, Cape Town, etc., the curators have presented the many complex narratives of African art and highlighted the ways in which our world is culturally connected.
Some highlights from this section include the work of Turiya Magadella, presented by Blank Gallery in Cape Town. Magadella is a Johannesburg-based artist who stretches materials such as pantyhose, bed sheets, and the cloth from prisoner uniforms over wooden frames to create colorful, abstract compositions. Echo Art gallery in Lagos presents the photographs of Namsa Leuba, a Swiss-Guinean photographer based in South Africa. Whether she works in theatrical studio environments, or the natural setting of her hometown in Guinea, through the use of elaborate costumes and props, Leuba’s photographs question the way that African identity is portrayed through the Western imagination. Also on view is work by Ibrahim El-Salahi, represented by the Vigo Gallery in London. El-Salahi is a Sudanese artist who fuses Islamic, Arab, Sudanese, and Western artistic traditions to create abstract, organic compositions using white and black paint, pen and ink. His Reborn Sounds III shares a remarkable resemblance to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.
The Armory Show is on view at Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River from March 3-6th, 2016. General admission tickets cost $45.00 and can be purchased on the shows website.