The 10 Things We Learned during Armory Week
March means Armory Week and this year’s art extravaganza of fairs, exhibitions, and museum openings didn’t disappoint (we know because we’re exhausted). Each year seems to bring something new, so whether you missed all the fun—or just feel like a fond look back—here are the 10 things we learned during this year’s Armory Week.
01 The New York market is helping international galleries stay afloat
The Armory Show opened to VIPs on Wednesday at Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s west side. The 22nd edition of the New York institution welcomed 205 galleries from 36 countries on every continent save Antarctica and Australia—the motherland of its new director, Benjamin Genocchio—for its most international edition to date. A slew of new galleries were present at the fair this year, from Brazilians SIM Galeria, Galeria Fortes Vilaça, and Galeria Luisa Strina to Germans Wentrup, Contemporary Fine Arts, and Galerie Guido W. Baudach. And New York’s notoriously strong art market delivered with a boost to their bottom lines.
02 And overall, sales show that the 2016 art market correction may not be as bad as we thought
If The Armory Show is any indication of what’s to come in the art market in 2016, it’s a sign that middle-market galleries may have the hardest go of it this year. Up to $10,000, and to some extent $25,000, collectors are quite willing to pull the trigger. And above $100,000—where recent reports indicate one can expect a constant rate of return on the range of 12–15% annually—more deep-pocketed buyers are still raking up pieces, too. But even for those middle-market galleries, panic should not ensue. Collectors are buying, just not at the frenetic pace of the past five years, which could be good for art anyway (if still a sting to the art market).
03 An excellent Armory Show Focus proves the diversity within African art
If you believed that African art looked any one particular way, this year’s Armory Show Focus, titled “African Perspectives,” set you straight. Curated by Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, the section brought together 14 galleries from across the globe (many from Africa) and showcased the varied contemporary art emerging from the continent and beyond. Thanks to a dynamic set of booths, the section managed to highlight a plurality of artists whose work is informed by Africa without boxing “African art” off into overly prescriptive visual categories.
04 And emerging artists from Africa and the African Diaspora were among the most exciting we saw all week
Three young African artists were among our list of the 10 most promising up-and-comers to watch across the piers, all featured in the fair’s Armory Focus sector—its strongest in years—centered around artists from Africa and the African Diaspora. From a white Zimbabwean artist tackling issues of national identity to a Johannesburg-born artist composing her work with socially loaded fabrics (think textiles from South African prisons), these artists, and their reception at the fair, make a promising case for the year ahead in contemporary African art.
05 Uptown, ADAA put increasingly diverse offerings on display, too
Taking cues from major museums that are doubling down in diversity efforts, a strong cohort of galleries at ADAA’s revered fair chose not to show the white male artists we expected. New works by Trenton Doyle Hancock and Simone Leigh, and rare paintings by Beauford Delaney and Bob Thompson were among highlights.
06 Meanwhile, in The Armory’s Modern section, outsider artists stole the show
The Armory Show’s quieter Modern section, along Pier 92, featured the usual showcase of blue-chip American artists (including heavy rotations of Stella, Chamberlain, and Twombly) this year, but the best discoveries came in the form of works on paper by a strong showing of so-called “outsider” artists, as well as modern and contemporary works from Latin American artists, and lesser-known female artists of the ’60s and ’70s. Standouts included a panoramic drawing by Henry Darger at Carl Hammer, a whole booth of Plains Indians “ledger drawings” at Donald Ellis, and abstract charcoal and pencil compositions from Gustavo Díaz, Catalina Chervin, and Julian Teran at Cecilia de Torres Ltd.
07 The Met attempted a sweeping, 500-year narrative of art history
The Met launched its expanded modern and contemporary program with an exhibition that takes in some 550 years of art history, pointing toward a trend across the art world of curators tackling bigger-picture art history, or Big Art History, with shows that span vast swaths of time and encompass numerous modes and forms of cultural production. Other examples of this can currently be seen at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and Vancouver Art Gallery.
08 … And it opened to mixed results
The Met Breuer debuted its inaugural exhibition, “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible,” for the media and VIPs this week. Artsy’s reviewer Meredith Mendelsohn queried the decision to opt for an entirely Western grouping of artists to tell a 550-year narrative of art history, but found in the Breuer’s hard edges and Brutalist form a revitalizing context for seeing afresh the exhibition’s extensive array of Old Masters—and enjoyed (and saw huge potential in) the few moments where old and new co-mingled.
09 Dealers swooned over Independent’s new digs and made solid sales to boot
Following six editions in Chelsea’s Dia building, Independent inaugurated a new permanent downtown space in TriBeCa’s swanky Spring Studios. The ooh-ing and ahh-ing during Wednesday’s VIP preview was as much about the floor-to-ceiling windowed, light-flooded space as the smartly curated groupings of works that filled it—among them, works sold in the fair’s first minutes and a five-figured booth sold out within hours.
10 And SPRING/BREAK took up Independent’s mantle to break the traditional fair mold yet again
SPRING/BREAK broke the traditional fair mold yet again, with its show of some 800 artists, corralled by over 100 curators and spanning two floors of midtown’s James A. Farley Post Office. Across the idiosyncratic space, installations inspired by the theme of appropriation filled defunct vaults and reenergized long-abandoned offices with boundary-pushing art that also happened to be accessibly priced. Music to our fair-weary ears.