The Winners and Losers of Armory Week 2015
What a week it has been for The Armory Show. Gone were typical complaints of fair-tigue, artist sellouts, and sale-less dealers. Instead, the art world came out to take an earnest and honest look at what’s for sale in the American marketplace and to size-up the latest ideas floating around the institutions. With the fairs closing today, we figured it was time to do some reflecting and come away with who and what stood out in this manic stretch known as Armory Week.
Oh, earnest Björk. Ironically, Carnegie Hall did her a solid, while MoMA fell tone-deaf on the songstress, according to many critics. There’s little Iceland can do wrong—just look at Ragnar Kjartansson. Sad Klaus Biesenbach (the show’s curator). For the last few days he has only been Instagramming a window vista from his apartment, an immediate break from a nearly two-week stream of Biophilia fanatica. Alas, not even the flurry of filtered Instagrams can make the critics and general word-about-town seem rosy. MoMA nonetheless hit several high notes this week. The top two: The Armory Show kick-off benefit and a new collaboration with Paul McCarthy with nudie skateboards. And now Björk is dealing with rumors swirling about her ex Matthew Barney dating “someone interesting, but I can’t say,” quoted by the Observer, from a source associated with Matthew Barney’s gallery.
The Group Zero craze shows no sign of stopping. In tandem with Gutai and Arte Povera it’s a truly significant art movement. But, it has also been hogging all the attention of late. There’s hardly an expiration date on Armory Show exhibitors Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Beck & Eggeling, and Moeller Fine Art’s ability to continue the movement’s rise. It would, however, be a welcome change to explore some other interesting movements or artists shaping the modern era, like the many Marsden Hartley paintings found at Driscoll Babcock Galleries or the haunting works by Bob Thompson found at David Klein Gallery and Hollis Taggart Galleries.
Hank Willis Thomas
Artist Hank Willis Thomas’s collaboration with Artsy became an instant (and Insta-) smash with fairgoers—and we’re not saying that because we have to. Our friends over at Artinfo named Thomas’s #ArtsyTakeover booth “easily the single most ’grammed Armory shot.” It’s an honor we imagine the artist values greatly, as he expressed on an Armory Show panel, sitting beside stripe-enthusiast Daniel Buren: “Everything I went to school for in photography is now irrelevant—it’s gone—and that is why Instagram means so much to me.” In addition to Instagram feeds, his anti-corporate slogan of “Art imitates life. Life imitates ads. Ads imitate art” appeared on the army of tote bags deployed across the fairs—and that trickled to downtown and uptown parties.
The week’s second-most-liked artist—Glenn Kaino—was brought to town not by Kavi Gupta (who was busy feteing Mickalene Thomas), but by Honor Fraser. A Shout Within a Storm (2014), a.k.a. Cupid’s revenge, featuring over 100 copper-plated steel arrows, was simply a…bullseye. Kaino shot into stardom only in the last year, with an excellent showing at the Prospect.3 biennial in New Orleans and a solo exhibition at Studio Museum. His is certainly a name we’ll be hearing about for while.
And amidst the Armory-focused frenzy, the Venice Biennale that opens May 9th announced its list of artists for the Okwui Enwezor-curated installment entitled “All the World’s Futures.” It’s the most inclusive Biennale yet, with 89 national pavilions represented from places as far-flung as Mongolia, the Republic of Mozambique, and the Republic of Seychelles. Enwezor’s exhibition explores “the age of anxiety,” and has included a crop of mid-career contemporary artists who surely are as neurotic as they come: Isa Genzken is included, along with Walead Beshty, Philippe Parreno, Glenn Ligon and Allora & Calzadilla, to name just a few. All have been tasked to provide works that explore the critical questions of the demise of the avant-garde and reflect on the skewed capitalistic world we live in. It’s a fitting announcement for a week of market-focused mayhem.