The Armory Show’s OPEN FORUM is an eclectic series of conversations that expand upon concepts of the fair. This year, inspired by the historic Armory Show’s centennial anniversary, the series explores both contemporary and historic topics. Curated by Anne Barlow, the director of Art in General, the forum will consider the artistic landscape of the United States, confront myths and misconceptions of the original Armory Show, and find contemporary relevance to now century-old controversies—among other feats. We had a chance to speak with Barlow about OPEN FORUM.
Artsy: Curating The Armory Show’s OPEN FORUM is a hefty task. Where did you begin and how did the fantastic lineup we have this week come together?
Anne Barlow: I was interested in developing the talks around the three strong programmatic strands that run through this year’s Armory Show: the 100th anniversary of its namesake, the Armory Focus: USA, and artist Liz Magic Laser’s participation/intervention in the fair. This created an unusual opportunity to include art historical talks on topics such as the myths and misconceptions around the original Armory Show, and the artistic legacy of Duchamp, alongside those that examine definitions of the transgressive and ‘alternative’ within a contemporary context.
Artsy: Are there particular talks in the series that you think speak to the commercial environment in which they are being held (an art fair) that wouldn’t necessarily have a place in the context of a non-profit, like Art in General (where you are the director)?
AB: “The Psychology of Consumerism” is particularly suited to the context of an art fair—even more so given Liz Magic Laser’s active use of market research strategies and focus groups—but apart from the fact that the topics of art and commerce and arts patronage are centuries old, they are still addressed in the wider contexts of museums and nonprofits today.
Artsy: Is there a particular talk in the series that you are most anticipating?
AB: As director of a nonprofit which supports artists through the commissioning of new works that often exist outside the ‘marketplace’, I am interested in how the context of an art fair affects the process of commissioning—from the motivations behind this increasing trend, to the opportunities and challenges that emerge for both commissioner and artist.
Artsy: And are there talks that you feel may ruffle some feathers, so to speak?
AB: “The Question of Regionalism” addresses perspectives and critiques that are often overlooked, so I look forward to an important and lively discussion there.
Artsy: The series of talks in this year’s OPEN FORUM revisit debates sparked during the 1913 Armory Show, many of which remain today. Why do you feel these issues are still relevant, and what connection do you draw between our current cultural climate and that of the early 20th century?
AB: This is a huge question but in brief, while the social, cultural and technological contexts in particular have changed dramatically since 1913, working closely with contemporary artists means that you similarly engage directly, and in an ongoing way, with expanding definitions of art practices. The opportunity to discuss Duchamp in the talks program and experience Liz Magic Laser’s work that spans theater, performance and installation within the same space provides an intriguing context in which to consider experimental art practices, the legacies of art history, and the ever-changing role of the audience.
Anne Barlow is Director of Art in General. Formerly Curator of Education and Media Programs at the New Museum, and Curator of Contemporary Art and Design at Glasgow Museums, she curated the 5th Bucharest Biennale in 2012 and is Co-Curator of the Latvian Pavilion for the 55th Venice Biennale.
Photograph of Anne by Jason Berger.