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Armory Show: Bigger, Better, More Buyers than Ever

The Armory Show, held from March 11-14 at piers 90 and 92 on Manhattan’s West Side, continues to build on its success and prestige in the ever-growing field of major contemporary art fairs. Organizers report that the show posted $45 million in sales and drew a record 40,000 visitors, up from 38,000 last year and

NEW YORK—The Armory Show, held from March 11-14 at piers 90 and 92 on Manhattan’s West Side, continues to build on its success and prestige in the ever-growing field of major contemporary art fairs. Organizers report that the show posted $45 million in sales and drew a record 40,000 visitors, up from 38,000 last year and nearly double the 22,000 figure recorded in 2003. Included in the total figure were 52 museum groups that brought 1,500 trustees and members to see the show, as well as museum curators and directors and an extended list of major collectors.

Fair director Katelijne de Backer initially had reservations about whether the art fair this year would live up to its success in 2004, when it coincided with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial show. The Biennial undoubtedly accounted, in major part, for the big jump in attendance at the Armory Show last year. “Although we knew that our program, influence and exhibitors were stronger than ever, we weren’t sure we’d get the same response,” says de Backer. Dealers on the whole seem pleased with sales.

“It was an incredibly successful fair. The market is really strong right now,” New York dealer Jack Shainman told ARTnewsletter. His sales included a large work on paper by Kerry James Marshall, a study for an upcoming painting that fetched $40,000; and a 9-foot sculptural figure by artist Nick Cave that made $18,000. In addition to the Cave work sold at the fair, Shainman says, four other works by the artist, who is new to the gallery, were sold to collectors whose decisions to buy were based on photos of the sculptures.

Harry Blain, director of London’s Haunch of Venison, also feels that the 2005 sales were even stronger than last year’s for his gallery. It sold, among other pieces, paintings from Keith Tyson’s “Geno/Pheno” series for prices ranging from $70,000/300,000. Blain notes “incredible interest” from collectors and museums for Tyson as well as for works by artist Ian Monroe.

Other sales included photographic work and sculptures by Richard Long at prices ranging from $50,000/150,000, and sculptures by Dan Flavin costing from “a couple of hundred thousand to $600,000,” says Blain. Describing the buyers at the show, he observes, “There were some very informed collectors who clearly identified the artists they wish to follow and add to their collections.”

Marco Nocella of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, calls the fair a “great experience,” adding that the gallery’s solo show of artist Ida Applebroog was successful “both commercially and critically.” Ten of Applebroog’s mixed-media works found buyers at prices ranging from $30,000/65,000.

Galerie Lelong, of New York, Paris and Zurich, reports the sale of works by such artists as Simon English, Anders Krisar, Ana Mendieta and Kate Shepherd, but declines to disclose prices.

Mary Sabbatino, vice president of Galerie Lelong, terms the fair “a pleasant experience,” saying the layout and organization were an improvement over the event a year ago.

A total of 162 galleries from 39 cities attended the show, with organizers noting that the new layout, with several larger booths, intentionally accommodated 27 fewer exhibitors than in 2004.

In recent years, fair organizers have increasingly focused on hosting VIP events; about 2,500 VIP cards were mailed to deep-pocketed collectors, museum curators and trustees, art advisers, dealers and other art world honchos—with a daunting 35-page schedule of events.

This year, before and during the show, 22 private visits were made to view collections in Manhattan and nearby areas, including those of Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder, Agnes Gund and Yvonne Force Villareal.

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