The Armory Show art fair, which is scheduled to open its 25th-anniversary edition on March 6 in New York on piers along the Hudson River, is relocating about one-third of its 194 exhibitors because of structural issues with Pier 92, which hosts the event along with Pier 94. Those galleries will be moved to Pier 90, the home of its sister fair, Volta, which is being canceled. (Both events are owned by Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.)
Nicole Berry, the Armory Show’s director, said the organization was notified of the issues on Wednesday, and that the fair made the decision to relocate the dealers and scuttle Volta “after considering all feasible options.” The news was first reported by Artnet News.
“Unfortunately, this situation is beyond our control,” Berry said in her statement to press, adding that, “Our chief priority is the safety of the exhibitors, visitors, and artworks exhibited, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure a smooth transition.”
Pier 90 is located a short walk south of Piers 92 and 94, and a one-minute shuttle will run during the fair to connect them, according to the Armory. The move will affect galleries participating in this year’s Focus, Insights, and Projects sections of the fair.
Iliya Fridman, whose New York–based Fridman Gallery is showing in this year’s curated Focus section, said, “They gave me a call and then followed up by email saying it’s kind of a force majeure circumstance, and that the Armory is going out of its way to make the attendance of the Focus and Insight sectors not plummet. It shouldn’t plummet, really. It’s only a couple minutes’ walk, and they said they will have shuttle service for those who don’t want to walk.”
Amanda Coulson, Volta’s artistic director, said that, after mulling other possible ways of presenting the smaller fair, “all considered situations were at best ad hoc and would not continue the high production value that is expected from our brand. We all agreed that presenting the New York 2019 edition in an extremely modified status would be a disservice to our galleries, the artists, [and] the visitors.” Exhibitors who had been admitted to the fair will be refunded.
Volta, which also operates an edition in Basel, Switzerland, in June, was to feature 70 exhibitors, with galleries coming from locales as distant as Seoul and Riga, Latvia. The fair typically offers presentations by emerging galleries devoted to one or two artists.
Eva Chimento of the Los Angeles gallery E.C. Liná said that she had a great experience participating in the 2018 edition of Volta under the name Chimento Contemporary. Chimento had planned to participate in this year’s Volta as well as the Spring/Break Art Show in New York, which runs concurrently with the Armory Show. When reached early Friday afternoon, she had not yet been contacted by Volta organizers about the cancellation. Just last week, she participated in Spring/Break’s inaugural Los Angeles edition, and for the New York iteration, she had expected to show work by Chris Finley including watercolors of Muppets on fire.
Quang Bao, the founder of New York’s 1969 Gallery, told ARTnews he had been excited to exhibit in Volta after participating in his first fair, Art Los Angeles Contemporary, last week. “I was totally heartbroken,” Bao said of receiving the news. He is unsure how his gallery would show the work it planned to present, by the artist Coady Brown. “To be together with other galleries under one tent—that’s hard to replicate,” he said.
Katie Michel, whose New York–based Planthouse Gallery was set to participate in Volta, said, “We’re just disappointed. I feel bad for Volta—they just had the rug pulled out from under them.” She said it struck her as unfair that the Armory Show would take the place of Volta, a fair that typically showcases curated presentations of work by emerging artists. “A big company gets to decide what’s more profitable,” Michel said. “There’s not much we can do.”
Asked about potential effects of the move, Fridman said, “It remains to be seen. If no one comes, it’ll be terrible. But I don’t think that will be the case. I talked to our artist [Nate Lewis] and he’s not concerned—that’s the most important thing for me. Maybe with additional press it’ll actually increase people’s interest. You never know—sometimes it works like that.”
Maximilíano Durón, Alex Greenberger, and Andy Battaglia contributed reporting.
Update, 9:50 p.m.: This post originally misstated the opening date of the Armory. It has been corrected.