What started out as an alternative event located in a shabby chic hotel had become a grueling super-sized trade fair. This week, the Armory Show will demonstrate whether it can reinvent itself yet again. Broadly thought to be on the decline before announcing its exhibitor list in January, a reinvigorated Armory Show runs Thursday through Sunday on Manhattan’s West Side.
The roster of 228 galleries is down from 274 last year, making the massive fair slightly less of a behemoth. Hoping to change perceptions of a laborious slog, the Armory engaged Brooklyn-based architects Bade Stageberg Cox to create more of a boutique feel, according to founder Paul Morris.
Pier 94 will feature the contemporary part of the fair, with 138 exhibitors, as well as a section with 19 exhibitors from the Nordic countries, another devoted to solo projects (10 exhibitors) and a section with not-for-profits. Armory Show Modern, meanwhile, at Pier 92, will feature 71 international exhibitors offering modern art.
Among the new exhibitors at the fair this year are David Zwirner (who was absent the last two years), Spruth Magers, Gallery Hyundai, Greene Naftali, Galerie Guido Baudach, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Klosterfelde, Poligrafa, Rampa and Lower East Side newcomer On Stellar Rays. The roster also includes longtime exhibitors such as London’s Lisson Gallery and New York’s Sean Kelly, Marianne Boesky and Peter Blum.
“The quality [of exhibitors] had been going down for several years,” Zwirner’s Justine Durrett told A.i.A.; she confirmed that recent revamps were a factor in their decision to re-enlist.
Several new features are enlivening Armory’s program this year. Armory Film will be curated by the Moving Image Fair, launched just last year by New York dealer Ed Winkleman. Liz Magic Laser’s performance Flight, in which actors re-enact cinematic chase scenes, will open the program on Wednesday.
Armory Performance debuts this year as well, with a program organized by Denmark-based independent curator Jacob Fabricius and focusing on American and Nordic artists. Opening the program on Wednesday is Kreppa: A Symphonic Poem about the Financial Situation in Iceland, by Örn Alexander Ámundason, which will be performed by Metropolis Ensemble under the direction of Andrew Cyr.
The culinary side of the fair is, moreover, promised to feature improvements, with eight dining areas (five more than last year). At one of them, Chicago artist Theaster Gates, whose past projects have included hosting dinners, will be available to speak with diners.
The Armory Show anchors a week of New York fairs, foremost among them the 24th Annual Art Show. Organized by the Art Dealers Association of America, the Art Show takes place at the Park Avenue Armory from Wednesday through Sunday and features 72 member exhibitors. Newer and more offbeat contenders are the Independent (Mar. 8–11), organized by New York dealer Elizabeth Dee and now in its third outing at the Dia building in Chelsea, and the Dependent, in its second iteration, will be up for one night, Mar. 10, at the Comfort Inn on Ludlow Street, on the Lower East Side.
Will the Armory Show continue to dominate the spring calendar? It faces new rivals for collectors’ attentions, with Frieze opening its inaugural fair in May on Randall’s Island. In addition to a number of prominent galleries opting for the New York newcomer, Frieze achieved a coup by enlisting Gagosian as an exhibitor, the first time the super-gallery has participated in a New York art fair. In another indication of Frieze’s ascendancy, satellite fairs Pulse and Red Dot were re-scheduled to coincide with Frieze.