There are nearly 200 exhibitors at the Armory Show in New York this year, spread across more than 200,000 square feet on Piers 92 and 94 along the Hudson River. It is nearly impossible to take in all of the modern and contemporary work on offer, but one tries. Below, a quick look at nine booths that made me swoon.
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess (and more) at Kaufmann Repetto
One of the sleeper hits in New York last year was a funny, sweet show of the octogenarian ceramicist Magdalena Suarez Frimkess’s slyly mischievous, inventive pieces at Kaufmann Repetto. Blessedly, the gallery, which also has a space in Milan, has brought her work to the Armory this year. Minnie Mouse smiles broadly on a tile, a stone-faced Santa Claus stares from a vase, and a small plate is adorned with a jaunty rooster. They’re all hand-painted, utterly charming, and if someone gave me a big bag of cash and demanded that I spend it at the fair, I would have no choice but to buy the whole lot. Also here: Judith Hopf, Dianna Molzan, and more.
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery
The London gallery just opened its first show with Faith Ringgold, and has in its booth a beautiful 2004 quilt painting by the American master. It’s not far from an intriguing abstraction by the young up-and-comer Jadé Fadojutimi—all carefully contained energy, with ricocheting lines—and new pieces by the Bruce High Quality Foundation. Not a display that one sees every day.
Nam June Paik at Gagosian
Some readers may remember when Jay Z once declared, “Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in mo-seums.” It’s a line I often find stuck in my head, and it is certainly applicable in this instance, since Gagosian’s Nam June Paik (1932–2006) display does, indeed, belong in a museum. The main attraction is a late work, 2005’s Lion, which is a vigorously painted wooden guardian lion surrounded and undergirded by a formidable number of televisions playing footage of animals, flowers, and Merce Cunningham dancing. It’s hallucinogenic, mesmerizing, and utterly delightful. But there are drawings, also, some of which suggest fantasy landscapes made in crayon by an exceptionally talented fifth-grader, and I mean that as high praise. Grab a pricy glass of champagne from the nearby bar and enjoy.
Milton Avery and David Park and Hackett Mill, San Francisco
The San Francisco outfit has gamely set, side-by-side, two brilliant American painters who are both still a touch underrated: the Bay Area painter David Park, who died in 1960 at 49, and the East Coaster Milton Avery, who was 79 when he passed five years later. It offers an incredible case study in how to make nuanced pictures of quiet intimacies, whether domestic or pastoral. In these pictures, artists are painting their models, men and women are enjoying each other’s company, and, in one remarkable Avery, two ladies are sitting across a table, playing cards. They look at home, comfortable, living their best lives.
De Sarthe Gallery
One wall of Hong Kong’s de Sarthe Gallery over on Pier 92 has a trio of paintings that Hsiao Chin—a member of the vanguard Ton Fan Group in 1950s Taiwan—made in the early 1960s, when he was in his upper-20s—sturdy but not precious geometric abstractions that suggest mysterious flags, large-scale tantra drawings, or some of the sparer work of Harvey Quaytman or Forrest Bess. The booth also has a great Nicolas de Staël still life—three pears on a plate—and a wild Hans Hartung that is pure eye candy, just the sort of thing one welcomes in judicious doses when wandering the aisles of an art fair.
Yayoi Kusama collages at Omer Tiroche Gallery
Perhaps you have savored Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Rooms,” waiting hours in line for the pleasure of posing within their mirrors. Perhaps you have enjoyed her “Infinity Net” paintings and their bewitching organic repetition. Well, then it is time to head over to the booth of this London gallery, which has a row of six collages that the Japanese phenom made in 1980 and 1981. They’re small but strong: a central image—an eagle, say—sits at the center of each, ornamented with meticulous lines and a glowing border. They look like cells under a microscope, or celestial bodies. They are superb.
Bruce Nauman at Sims Reed Gallery
Sounds the alarms! This is a major-league Nauman affair, with prints from throughout the artist’s career, ranging from the ice-cold text pieces of the 1970s and ’80s (Raw War, Double Face) to delirious etchings of himself contouring his face from the past decade. My personal favorite on offer from this London dealer is Clown Taking a Shit (1988), which depicts just that. Nauman’s retrospective is coming up at the Schaulager in Basel and the Museum of Modern Art next year: here, right now, is a tasty little aperitif. Drink it in.
On the subject of prints, New York print dealership Susan Sheehan Gallery has an utterly attractive booth, with light pink walls—imagine very tasty, very sweet cotton candy, still hot from its creation—that are hung with many kinds of joy: an array of early Warhols (cats! shoes!), Hockney (a young woman tucked into an armchair in a polka-dot skit), and some Ellsworth Kellys. It is a booth that aims to please. It succeeds.
This Philadelphia-based purveyor of work by self-taught artists never disappoints, but its offerings feel particularly rich this year, with absolute giants like James Castle, Joseph Yoakum, and William Edmondson (a limestone lamb, as cute as you can imagine) sharing space. But here, too, is a mainstream figure (whatever that means): Hanne Darboven, the German conceptual pioneer, represented by one of her inimitable grids of marks and found images (speaking of cute, each frame includes a kitten photograph). They all look great together, like old friends meeting up for a long-overdue reunion—the first of many, one hopes.
Bonus: Meringues at Butterfield Market
The photo above pretty much speaks for itself, I think, but let me tell you: these meringues are huge, delicious, and impressively colored. They’re steeply priced—$5.50 apiece—but you can feed a small band of young children with just one. A lady working the booth told me that they have some even larger ones not on display. I can’t even believe that’s possible.