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Armory Show: Sales Meet Lowered Expectations

The eleventh edition of The Armory Show, which anchors an ever-expanding annual weekend of satellite fairs and art-related events across the city (see story, page 2), drew crowds of 56,000 to Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s West Side March 5–8, up from 52,000 last year.

NEW YORK—The eleventh edition of The Armory Show, which anchors an ever-expanding annual weekend of satellite fairs and art-related events across the city (see story, page 2), drew crowds of 56,000 to Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s West Side March 5–8, up from 52,000 last year. Although an ARTnewsletter survey of participating dealers revealed that many made fewer sales than in previous years, most exhibitors said they were nonetheless pleased with the show’s organization, turnout and sales. Many said their results bettered their lowered expectations and inspired some confidence in the resilience of the art market despite the ongoing economic crisis.

This year, organizers introduced a new addition to the fair, The Armory Show–Modern, a section dedicated to dealers specializing in modern art and secondary-market works, which featured exhibitions by 67 galleries. With 166 exhibitors representing 22 countries housed on Pier 94 along with ten booths occupied by nonprofits, including museums, and the modern-art dealers set up on nearby Pier 92, this year’s sprawling fair was the largest yet.

“It went quite well,” gallery owner Jack Shainman told ARTnewsletter. “However, it is different than in the past. Decisions are being made much more slowly . . . which might not be a bad thing.” Three large wall sculptures by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui made from thousands of aluminum tabs from liquor bottles intricately woven with copper wire—including a tapestry-like work prominently hung by the entrance to the VIP lounge—“brought a lot of energy for us,” said Shainman, who reported that one work, Intermittent Signals, 2009, which measures 11 by 35 feet, was sold to a museum.

The gallery also did well with “Sound­suits” by Nick Cave, whimsical sculptures made of thrift-store fabrics, found materials and objects such as ceramic birds, twigs and flowers, which the gallery describes as “hovering between a human form and an abstract painting.” Three Soundsuits were sold at the fair to different museums, and three others not on view were sold to individual collectors as a result of the buzz at the show, Shainman said. The Soundsuits were each priced at $45,000, he added.

“I think the fair looked really good,” said Lea Freid, a partner in Lombard-Freid Projects, New York. “Many galleries chose to curate their space. I think there was a lot more finesse in selection of the work and people were making sure that their galleries were distinct.” As for sales, she added, “We did okay . . . it wasn’t spectacular.”

The gallery sold five paintings by Iranian-born Tala Madani for prices of $8,000/12,000 each. Freid noted that Madani’s work will be featured in “Younger Than Jesus,” the first edition of the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s new triennial, “The Genera­tional” (April 8–June 14).

A Profitable Fair

“Obviously it was slower than it has been in the past,” said Olivier Belot, director general of Yvon Lambert, Paris, London and New York. The gallery has participated in the show every year since it moved to the piers. “There were not big, substantial numbers, but it was slow and steady and it was a profitable fair. We met new collectors and were happy. At the end of the day, this is what we were expecting,” Belot told ARTnewsletter. Among the gallery’s sales, Belot listed two LED works by Jenny Holzer priced at E65,000 ($82,000) each, a painting by Carlos Amorales and two drawings by Shinique Smith that sold early in the fair.

Sandra Gering, director of Gering & López, New York, said that the gallery had decided to participate in the Armory Show “with great trepidation,” but she “found it to be extremely enthusiastic and crowded, and all of my clients came out.” Gering & López’s booth was given over to an American theme, featuring a U.S. flag made of LED lights by Leo Villareal, a Polaroid of a toy figurine of Joe DiMaggio by David Levinthal and a plywood sculpture of LeBron James by Xavier Veilhan. The Veilhan portrait of James sold for $20,000, while the Levinthal sold for $12,500. The gallery also sold an installation of enamel-painted bronze self-portrait heads in three colors by KAWS for $25,000, according to Gering.

Galerie Eigen + Art, Leipzig and Berlin, has held solo artist exhibitions at the last few editions of the Armory Show. “This way the work of an artist can be represented and communicated the best way to the fair visitors, to curators and collectors,” director Gerd Harry Lybke told ARTnews­letter. This year its booth was devoted to work by Matthias Weischer, known for his paintings of interiors, whose works have sold for as much as $589,000 at auction. The gallery sold out of the canvases it brought, at prices of $35,000/185,000, Lybke said.

Dealer Bridget Moore, of DC Moore, New York, who exhibited in the Armory Show’s new modern section, said “it could and should be a great institution,” adding that she liked the “conversation” between the modern and contemporary sections.

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