The Armory Show returns with renewed energy and a global perspective – SURFACE
New York’s premier contemporary art fair returned to the Javits Center last weekend with renewed enthusiasm, a decidedly international presence and a greater focus on emerging talent.
BY RYAN WADDOUPS
September 13, 2022
As thousands of tennis enthusiasts descended on Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens over the past two weeks for the US Open, they strolled past five sculptures that would set the tone for the upcoming fall art season of the town. Commissioned by the USTA’s Be Open campaign in partnership with The Armory Show, the pieces were made by artists such as Myles Nurse, Jose Dávila and Gerald Chukwuma, who come from underrepresented backgrounds and important subjects that suit the week ahead: empowerment, balance, growth.
These themes dominated the 28th edition of The Armory Show, which made a resounding return to the Javits Center last weekend. New York’s prominent contemporary art fair brought together nearly 250 galleries from more than 30 countries, a renewed global presence due to the relaxation of Covid safety protocols and travel restrictions. (The vibe was certainly an improvement over the building’s use as a mass vaccination site and makeshift morgue during the pandemic.) more in line with its vision of the fair reaching its full potential. “We are bigger because the demand is there and the space justifies it.”
The cavernous halls and clever layout of the building – once again designed by architects Frederick Fisher and Partners to provide unobstructed sight lines and breathability – gave the fair room to swing big. This year, two new organized sections tackled big ideas. The Focus section, curated by MCA Chicago curator Carla Acevedo Yates, spotlighted artists focused on how environmental issues interact with the current political climate of race, gender and power. Perhaps they best embody this notion, three canvases by Hugo McCloud, which depict an older man on a rickety bicycle delivering flowers. The self-taught painter collected plastic bags and attached them to the canvas through a process of heat transfer, giving depth to the material.
“The fair is focused on Latin America and Latinx, but not only,” said Tobias Ostrander, who curated the Platform section. The arts journal. “It’s really how these things interact with other themes: black artists, artists from the African diaspora, indigenous artists. It’s all in people’s heads. In his section, Ostrander explored how recent revisionism, specifically the toppling of Confederate monuments, is changing the way artists approach sculpture. For example, the imposing pedestals of Juan Fernando Herrán devoid of commemorated heroes and the imposing 300-foot-long photogram of the Amazon rainforest by Roberto Huarcaya shot at night. The works individually achieve what they were intended, but as one reviewer noted, the section’s unfortunate placement between two champagne parlors has dampened its message somewhat.
In the conspicuous absence of mega-galleries Hauser & Wirth, Gagosian and Pace, more emerging dealers have had a chance to shine. The Presents section of the fair highlighted galleries under 10 showcasing recent work in solo and duo artist presentations. Among the most notable works were Keith Jackson’s vivid family paintings at the Charles Moffett Gallery, Lower East Side upstart Kai Matsumiya’s rambling display of disparate canvases by Jan Kiefer, and the London dealer’s trove of evocative works. Jack Bell Gallery by Cameroonian artist Marc Padeu. A new initiative called Armory Spotlight, meanwhile, provided a free booth at a New York institution. Inaugural partner, The Kitchen, unveiled a “digital jukebox” layered within a wallpaper installation of printed ephemera designed with Apply Stickers.
Asked about the resilience of New York’s cultural community before the fair opens its pared-down edition in 2021, Berry reiterated her belief that the city “will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.” His optimism was well placed: more than 42,000 people, exhibitors, collectors and enthusiasts, showed up over the four days of the fair this year, achieving six-figure early sales of works of art such as Fred Tomaselli, Huma Bhabha and Kehinde. Wiley, without forgetting the acquisition of new works by museums such as the Center Pompidou, the ICA Miami or the Rubell Museum.
“In my 20 years at this fair, it’s been the freshest new energy I’ve seen in all that time,” says Susanne Vielmetter, owner of the eponymous LA gallery. “Established galleries need to pay attention to this new wave of young dealers and excellent artists.”