10 Emerging Artists to Watch at The Armory Show

Molly Gottschalk
Mar 4, 2016 1:42AM

Over 200 galleries from 36 countries having flocked to New York this week for the 22nd edition of The Armory Show. And between Armory Presents, the fair’s section devoted to galleries less than 10 years old, and Armory Focus, this year presenting contemporary art from Africa and the African Diaspora, the fair presents a key opportunity to discover some of the most exciting emerging artists from across the globe. To help you navigate the aisles, we boiled it down to 10 newcomers gaining traction at The Armory Show this year, who are ripe for picking.

Raphael Hefti

B. 1978 in Biel, Switzerland. Lives and works in London and Zurich.

Available at: RaebervonStenglin

Installation view of works by Raphael Hefti at RaebervonStenglin’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

Hefti may well be the only artist at the fair who shares his medium with firebreathers. To create the half-dozen, nearly six-foot-tall photograms that line the walls of RaebervonStenglin’s booth (priced at 18,000 CHF plus framing), the Swiss artist sprinkles spores from Lycopodium moss—a favorite of fire-spitters—onto light sensitive paper. “It burns slowly, with low heat,” says co-director Matthias von Stenglin, who explains that Hefti drops photo paper on the floor of the darkroom, dusts it with powder, and ignites a fire. “The flame develops the photography,” he notes. “It’s like a photogram where the fire is the lightsource.”

Ryan Mrozowski

B. 1981 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Available at: On Stellar Rays

Installation view of Ryan Mrozowski’s work at On Stellar Rays’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.


Thirtysomething painter Mrozowski had a momentous 2015—including group exhibitions with Marianne Boesky and Salon 94, and his first solo exhibition with On Stellar Rays, the New York-based gallery who brought his work to this year’s Armory Show. A deeply hued painting of a flattened, abstracted orange grove—the artist’s largest work to date—is a highlight of the fair. “He’s playing with optics and perception and pattern; there’s a lot of visual games in his work,” says owner and director Candice Madey. “We just picked it up yesterday from his studio in Bushwick,” she adds, noting that just hours into the VIP preview, the painting, Untitled (Orange) (2016), had sold to a private collection in New York for $18,000.

Turiya Magadlela

B. 1978 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Lives and works in Soweto, South Africa.

Available at: blank projects

Installation view of works by Turiya Magadlela at Blank Projects’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

Stitched-together pantyhose and overalls sourced from South African prisons are among the charged fabrics 38-year-old Magadlela calls on for her abstract, often minimal compositions. “She uses culturally and socially loaded materials,” says owner and director Jonathan Garnham, motioning toward the pantyhose-covered canvases. The solo booth is Magadlela’s first showing in the U.S., and works are priced at $4,000 per canvas. (Collectors are encouraged to purchase them as a diptych or triptych.) “The panyhose speak of being a woman, and the violence inflicted on women in her home country,” Garnham adds. Earlier works made with bedding pulled from South African prisons, titled after incarcerated black leaders throughout history, incorporate “keffer sheet,” a fabric named for the derogatory term for a black person used in South Africa during apartheid. And according to Garnham, these works have struck a chord with American collectors. “Interestingly she’s being acquired by mainly American black collectors,” he says. The director teases that the artist will show with New York’s venerable Pace Gallery in June as evidence that “She’s gaining traction in the market here.”

Mario Pfeifer

B. 1981 in Dresden, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin and New York.

Available at: KOW

Installation view of works by Mario Pfeifer at KOW’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

Enter the fair, walk straight to Armory Presents, and park yourself before Pfeifer’s two-channel video installation, #blacktivist (2015), at Berlin Gallery KOW. (You can thank me later.) The German artist is known for producing projects that are culturally relevant to their locales, and following an invitation to an artist’s residency with MINI/Goethe-Institut, he approached local Brooklyn rap group Flatbush ZOMBIES to collaborate on a music video. Expect scenes from outer space, floating heads, gold-front grills, and Obama. The video quickly received over two million views when it was released on YouTube. And at the fair, it is juxtaposed with documentation of an open-sourced 3D-printed gun workshop in Austin, Texas. “You see different perspectives inside of America; Brooklyn versus Texas” says the gallery’s Nikolaus Oberhuber of the work, priced at $15,000 in an edition of 10, one of which had quickly sold to a private collection in Europe. “You have this company in Texas that argues for more freedom under the second amendment,” he adds, but meanwhile, the #blacktivist video, with all the conventions of a traditional music video, is a startling exploration of police brutality and the right to self defense.

Sebastián Fierro

B. 1988 in Bogotá, Colombia.

Available at: Instituto de Visión

Installation view of Sebastían Fierro’s work at Instituto de Visión’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

In January, 28-year-old Colombian artist Fierro celebrated his MFA graduation from Hunter College—and this week, an oil painting from his thesis show (Cosmograma, 2015, priced at $10,000) is the centerpiece of Instituto de Visión’s booth. “We flew in January to see the show,” notes executive director Omayra Alvarado. (Since then, of four pieces from his MFA show, the gallery has already sold two.) “We send pictures and collectors are like I want this today—now.” Though Fierro got his start painting landscapes, during his masters program he transitioned into what Alvarado calls “psychological landscapes—strange spaces where you don’t know whether you’re inside or outside,” evidenced by Cosmograma in which an interior seamlessly fuses with outer space.

Dan Halter

B. 1977 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.


Installation view of works by Dan Halter at WHATIFTHEWORLD’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

“He’s a white Zimbabwean artist living in South Africa,” says WHATIFTHEWORLD curator Ashleigh McLean of 39-year-old Halter, who is on his way to matching his South African fame in the States. “A lot of his work is about displacement, and the fabrication of national identity.” Behind McLean, the artist’s 12-foot-long map—titled Rifugiato Mappa del Mondo (2016), after Alighiero e Boetti, and priced at $12,700—depicts the world via pieced-together Chinese laundry bags. “Throughout the world they have different vernacular names,” notes McLean. (In Nigeria, they’re called Ghana-must-go bags; in Germany they’re called Turkan coffins.) The map also serves as an infographic, she continues, as the quality of bag used to denote a particular region is reflective of economic or political stability (or lack thereof). “Zimbabwe is a very tough bag,” she says, “as opposed to South Africa, which is slightly worn, or our neighbor Nairobi which is in great condition.”

Talia Chetrit

B. 1982 in Washington, D.C. Lives and works in New York, New York.

Available at: Sies + Höke

Installation view of Talia Chetrit’s work at Sies + Höke’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

Last summer, Chetrit filled Sies + Höke’s Dusseldorf gallery with two distinct bodies of work: Nude self portraits taken in front of the mirror, and street shots of people who were unaware of being photographed. At The Armory Show, the young American photographer brings the two series together in sandwiched double exposures (Street Self-portrait #1 and #3, 2015). “Recently her works have become very personal,” notes director Klaus Malonek. “She’s combining intimate, private moments with very public exposures.” But on the opposite wall, a sensual photograph of halved fennel and the sleek knife that sliced it (Fennel, 2015, priced at $6,000 in an edition of four) steals the show. “It’s so softly developed in the darkroom that it almost appears like a drawing,” says director Lucas Hirsch of the photograph, which draws from Surrealism, 1920s photography, and the work of Spanish-Mexican filmmaker Luis Buñuel.

Julian Charrière

B. 1987 in Morges, Switzerland. Lives and works in Berlin.


Installation view of works by Julien Charriére at DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

In February, Swiss artist Charrière (one of Artsy’s 16 artists to watch in 2016) debuted his new series, “Metamorphism,” at ZsONA MACO in Mexico City. This week, the young artist brings a more complete showing of the series to New York in a solo booth with DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, where molten lava stones are displayed on vitrine-covered plinths à la fossils in a natural history museum. (The works are priced between $8,500–$19,000). According to André Schlechtriem, Charrière brought a truckload of electro-trash (old computer motherboards, iPhone cables) to a steel factory, where the scrap electronics were doused in liquid lava and cooled into stones. Cross-sections of stones, hung on booth walls, reveal glimmering bits of old computers. As Schlechtriem notes, “It’s creating fossils of the future. He’s very much thinking of what we will leave behind.”

Natalie Czech

B. 1976 in Neuss, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin.

Available at: Kadel Willborn

Installation view of Natalie Czech’s work at Kadel Willborn’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

As MoMA’s most recent “New Photography” show—the ongoing exhibition series spotlighting emerging photographers—winds to a close, those who loved German artist Czech’s work in the museum will have the opportunity to acquire a similar work at the Armory. “Natalie finds existing poems or images in text. Her work is about the ability to read already existing images in different ways,” says gallery owner Moritz Willborn, who points me toward a three-part image depicting Pink Floyd’s Money CD cover and a corresponding poem, “Ney Mo Money,” by Aram Saroyan. (The LP album cover edition of the work hangs in MoMA.) “We sold two versions during the fair to very good American private collections,” he says of the work, the last edition of which is priced at $10,000.

Namsa Leuba

B. 1982 in Saint-Aubin, Switzerland. Lives and works in Lausanne.

Available at: Echo Art

Installation view of works by Namsa Leuba at Echo Art’s booth at The Armory Show, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.

“All of my work is talking about African identity through Western eyes,” says up-and-coming photographer Leuba, born to a Guinean mother and a Swiss father, while manning her solo booth during The Armory Show’s VIP preview. In addition to highlights from past series, Leuba debuts her most recent series, “NGL” (read: “Next Generation Lagos”) created during a 2015 residency with Art Twenty One in Lagos, Nigeria. As Echo Art’s Caline Chagoury explains, “She worked with local Nigerian fashion designers—found people on the street—and created this world that’s a complete translation of what Lagos is like. She nailed the city. She has this western eye on African culture and identities.” In addition to vibrant wall-covering installations—Kingdom of Mountains, priced at $16,000, and NGL, priced at $22,000—the gallery also offers editions of portraits in the range of $2,500–$7,000.

Molly Gottschalk