Art Market

Despite Market Downturn, New York’s Biggest Art Week Puts Focus on Emerging Artists

Molly Gottschalk
Oct 26, 2016 2:00PM

Exterior view of Pier 94 from Pier 92. Photo by BFA, courtesy of The Armory Show 2016.

As the fall season settles into pace, many eyes remain on the current contraction in the art market, with the market for emerging art particularly tenuous at present. Dealers across Frieze London reported fewer sales than has previously been the case at major fairs, and the fair’s Focus section for solo booths of young artists saw a marked decrease in the number of truly new names on view. Just ahead of Frieze week Phillips’s New Now sale saw prices for some emerging artists drop by as much as 90%.

But amidst this contraction, New York’s biggest fair week will see ever-greater focus placed on young artists and galleries. Today, March’s eminent fair The Armory Show announced a new booth prize in support of the emerging galleries within its Presents sector (dedicated to solo- and duo- emerging artist presentations by young galleries). The initiative, supported by Athena Art Finance, joins the fair’s move to expand the sector by just over 40%, to a total of 31 galleries. Meanwhile, last week, NADA New York announced that it will move from its former May date—which for the past four years has coincided with Frieze New York—to fall during Armory Week.

“The Presents Booth Prize is a way to acknowledge and highlight these exceptional presentations and ease the cost of participation for the winning gallery,” said Armory Show director Ben Genocchio, who took over the fair at the start of this year, following former director Noah Horowitz’s departure for Art Basel. Genocchio noted that despite what he called “ebbs and flows” in the market, demand remains strong for high-quality work. To help raise the quality of work presented on Pier 94, a larger initiative Genocchio announced earlier this year, the fair has recently established a panel of leading young dealers—Jessica Silverman, Augusto Arbizo, and Philippe Charpentier—to help guide the vision for the Presents sector. While the full list of young galleries has yet to be announced, Genocchio promises “one of our best crops of Presents dealers yet.”

Genocchio acknowledges that the $10,000 prize, juried by collectors Alain Servais, Carole Server, and Renee Drake, as well as curators Massimiliano Gioni and Ruba Katrib, greatly impacts the ability for only one gallery to participate in The Armory Show. But the director added that the expansion of the section as a whole has also come with a decrease in the cost for these young dealers to participate in the fair, a much-needed lowering of the stakes as galleries have to increasingly weigh options and be more strategic about their outlay.

“After hearing from all our young dealers, we also chose to incentivize Presents this year by decreasing the cost—this was in part to help some of those galleries traveling from afar and to encourage them to bring work that was not only strong, but ambitious and daring,” said Genocchio. “It’s important that the fair retain its sense of experimentation and excitement and the Presents galleries are a great way to encourage that sense of discovery.”

With NADA’s move to Armory Week, galleries who’ve in the past participated in both NADA New York and The Armory Show—like 11R, Bischoff Projects, and Nicelle Beauchene in 2016—may be forced to pick a side. But Genocchio welcomes the younger fair’s arrival. “It’s a vote of confidence in Armory Arts Week and in The Armory Show, acknowledging that this is the place to be for collectors in March—there is a critical mass with the dozens of gallery and museum openings and now NADA, The Independent, the ADAA, Volta, Pulse, and a number of other fairs also taking place,” he said.

According to NADA director Heather Hubbs, the fair’s move had been on the mind of NADA’s board, as well as her own, for a while now. “We are responding to the needs of our members, and the schedule in May has become difficult,” she said. “The timing of the Whitney Biennial is relevant to us—we are looking forward to coinciding with it this year.” The move to Armory Week will also see NADA move locations from its former Lower East Side haunt, Basketball City, to SoHo’s more centrally located Skylight Clarkson North. The “close vicinity to the other events happening on the west side during March is appealing,” said Hubbs, no doubt reflecting on the lengthy ferry ride from Randall’s Island required for most wanting to hit Frieze and NADA during its previous slot on the calendar.

Molly Gottschalk