Art Market

Artsy Insider: The Armory Show Opens with Strong Sales

Benjamin Sutton
Sep 12, 2021 7:00PM

By order of appearance: Jessie Makinson, A murderer contemplated the color of my hair, 2021. Courtesy of Lyles & King; Dominic Chambers, Blue DayDream (Shikeith in Blue), 2021. Courtesy of Roberts Projects; Alvin Ong, Mood #50, 2021. Courtesy of Yavuz Gallery; Bony Ramirez, The Last Day, Ultimo Día En El Campo, 2021. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery.

Welcome to Artsy Insider. This week, I’m looking at early sales from The Armory Show and surveying the scene at the fair, plus sharing a collection of in-demand works on offer at this week’s fairs in New York.

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By the Numbers

Strong Sales Out of the Gate at The Armory Show

Jammie Holmes
Furs and Concrete, 2021
Marianne Boesky Gallery
Vik Muniz
Surfaces: Harlequin, after Pablo Picasso, 2021
Nara Roesler


Artists Everyone Is Talking about at The Armory Show

From left to right: Elizabeth Magill, Flush, 2021. Courtesy of Kerlin Gallery; Alvin Ong, Mood #52, 2021. Courtesy of Yavuz Gallery; Hayal Pozanti, Walktail, 2021. Courtesy of Jessica Silverman.

The art world is buzzing as The Armory Show returns to New York. This week, Artsy Curatorial spotlights artists who are having a moment at the fair this year. Featured artists include Bony Ramirez, Clare E. Rojas, and Carla Jay Harris.

Explore the full collection on Artsy.

This Week

Collectors Flock to The Armory Show

Kwesi Botchway, detail of Guyman, 2021. Courtesy of Gallery 1957.

The opening hours of The Armory Show found a slew of big-name collectors traipsing through the Javits Center, the airy new venue for New York’s hometown fair, which moved to a new September time slot after its 2020 edition closed on the eve of the city’s COVID-19 lockdown. Legendary collector and Museum of Modern Art board president emerita Agnes Gund was plying the socially distanced aisles early, as were Miami’s trendsetting collecting couple Don and Mera Rubell, and influential San Francisco–based collector Pamela Joyner. In fact, considering the logistical challenges involved, the revamped fair drew an impressively wide swath of the art world cognoscenti, including 2022 Venice Biennale curator Cecilia Alemani and French mega-dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, whose gallery isn’t showing during this year’s Armory Week.

A strong showing from U.S.-based collectors (and New Yorkers especially) helped drive sales right out of the gate, leading to many sold-out booths during Thursday’s VIP preview. Lower East Side gallery Lyles & King quickly found buyers for all the paintings and a pair of sculptural seats in its solo booth of works by London-based artist Jessie Makinson for prices between $8,000 and $36,000. “There are collectors we’ve started relationships with during COVID, whether over email or social media, who we’re finally getting to meet and show the work to in person,” said gallery director Isaac Lyles.

Accra-based Gallery 1957 had a similarly successful run in the fair’s opening hours, selling all five paintings by Ghanaian artist Kwesi Botchway in its bright-pink booth, often to collectors who were seeing the works in person for the first time. “We’ve shown his work in solo shows in Accra and London, both of which were impacted by COVID, so it’s nice to be able to show him here to people who’ve only seen his work online,” said gallery director Victoria Cooke, noting that Botchway’s distinctive manner of rendering his subjects’ skin tones in shades of dark purple doesn’t always register in digital images.

Whether from some combination of pent-up demand and closely held supply, or predominantly American collectors’ eagerness to finally explore an expansive art fair again, many artists showing in the country for the first time found eager buyers. Singapore- and Sydney-based Yavuz Gallery went all in on painter Alvin Ong, whose work had never been shown in North America before. “We really wanted to debut this young artist from Singapore at The Armory Show,” said gallery manager Caryn Quek. “What better way than to bring 108 paintings?” No better way, it seems: By the end of the fair’s preview day, more than half the works in Ong’s head-spinning array of paintings—all self-portraits stylized in a glitchy, Cubistic manner to evoke the isolation and digital ennuie of lockdown—had sold.

Benjamin Sutton
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019