What Sold at The Armory Show?

Alexander Forbes
Mar 8, 2015 4:34PM

As Armory Week approached this year, organizers and dealers alike admitted to being more than a little nervous about their prospects. A wintery mix on Wednesday and whiteout conditions on Thursday weren’t exactly the whisper of spring’s imminent arrival that often accompanies The Armory Show to help bolster sales. But, despite research that suggests cold temperatures, snow, and lack of sunlight can have seriously detrimental effects on consumer spending—and particularly on impulse shopping, which, let’s face it, is what exceedingly good fair results often rely on—sales were numerous on Piers 92 and 94 this week.

Results have not been the heady, Art Basel-like affair of eight-figure prices. At the time of writing, only one seven-figure sale had been recorded: $2 million for a choice Lucio Fontana Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1968) in white at CARDI GALLERY. Its twin is also on offer at the gallery’s booth along with works by Domenico Bianchi—of which the gallery sold 10—priced at a more attainable $25,000–$30,000. Total sales volume is what’s key at The Armory Show and comes in commensurate to the fair’s aim to service the curators and collectors from New York’s five boroughs and the American heartland.

Perhaps thanks to theirs being the most Instagrammed booth of the fair (save Hank Willis Thomas’s #ArtsyTakeover), Honor Fraser saw significant buyer interest in their Glenn Kaino installation, A Shout Within a Storm (2014), made up of some 149 copper-plated arrows. The piece, which has variable dimensions depending on a collector’s spatial constraints, was commissioned by multiple eager buyers at a price of $130,000 a pop.

Kaino was only rivaled in ’gram feed penetration by James Fuentes’s presentation of Berta Fischer’s colorful plexiglass. According to director James Michael Shaeffer, the gallery had to rehang the booth on Friday morning since sales had been so heavy the first two days. “We feel like we’ve been doing [the Armory] for 15 years,” he said. (The gallery rejoined the fair last year after an absence of several years.) “You kind of have to do it. You just do so well.” 

Fuentes wasn’t the only one killing it in the Armory Presents section for young galleries. Anat Ebgi sold out her entire booth of works by Luke Diiorio during the VIP preview, the last of which went to an Artsy collector. VARIOUS SMALL FIRES also reportedly sold out their entire booth of hot painter Amir Nikravan. Chris Wileys were flying off the walls of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery’s stand and were replaced by a new selection in time for the weekend.

Throughout Pier 94, works in the middle range of the market, priced between $20,000–$100,000 appeared to be faring best, which was a slight surprise considering the plethora of affordable pieces that were a hallmark of The Armory Show this year. Berlin gallery Johann König did particularly well in that range, selling a Tatiana Trouvé sculpture (Refolding, 2014) for $75,000, all thee editions of Jeppe Hein’s hit work YOU ARE SPECIAL (2014) at €40,000 a pop (one artist proof is still available), four sculptures by Camille Henrot for around $20,000 each, and three pieces by Alicja Kwade—a sculpture, Wertdifferenz (in 365 Tagen und 100 USD) (2015), for $26,000, and two mirror works of differing sizes, figure (2014) for $21,000 and a larger example for $26,000, that the gallery had been planning on bringing to Frieze New York. 

As the weekend arrived and the end of Armory Week was within sight, Frieze seemed to be on the tip of many foreign dealers’ tongues, priming collectors for the next opportunity to acquire. At Victoria Miro, director Elke Seebauer was excited to plug their Venice Biennale-heavy booth forthcoming in two months. (Gallery artists Isaac Julien, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, and Sarah Sze were all announced as participants in Okwui Enwezor’s highly anticipated offering for the 56th Biennale on Thursday.) It suggests that the old art-world adage “see it in Venice, buy it in Basel” will be in need of a less-catchy edit due to the biennale’s shift on the calendar. Sales were swift for Victoria Miro at the Armory too, with an Ofili, for which the gallery was reportedly asking $650,000, getting snatched up in the fair’s early hours. Miro also sold an undisclosed number of Yayoi Kusama works on the range from $300,000–650,000, a Chantal Joffe for $80,000, and a work by recent addition to the gallery, Celia Paul, for $32,000.

A similar smattering of sales was reported by Sean Kelly. The gallery placed works with collectors by nearly every artist they were showing including: an Antony Gormley for $500,000, two works by David Claerbout for €65,000 and €95,000, a Kehinde Wiley for $125,000, and a James White for $60,000. The dealer reported being very pleased with the fair this year. And, unlike many on both piers who complained that Thursday’s snow storm had resulted in more or less a wasted day sales-wise, the dealer said that his contingent of collectors were unable to be dissuaded by New York’s seemingly endless winter. “Business has been brisk,” he said with a chuckle. “And so is the weather.” Really, though, spring, you’re welcome to come any day.

Alexander Forbes
Alexander Forbes is Artsy’s Senior Director of Collector Services & Private Sales.
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019