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
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
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
, 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.