For its upcoming edition next fall, the Armory Show will focus its special programming on Latinx and Latin American art. Three of the fields’ leading curators will oversee those events: Mari Carmen Ramírez, Tobias Ostrander, and Carla Acevedo-Yates.
Ramírez, curator of Latin American art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will organize the fair’s annual Curatorial Leadership Summit. Ostrander, adjunct curator for Latin American art at Tate, will organize the fair’s Platform section for large-scale works. Acevedo-Yates, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, will oversee the fair’s Focus section for solo and two-person presentations.
“As New York’s fair we have the responsibility to offer presentations that reflect the city that we live in and those that make up the city,” Nicole Berry, executive director of the Armory Show, said in an interview. “We want to directly engage with the diverse landscape of the city and acknowledge, in this year in particular, the vast accomplishments of Latin American and Latinx artists, whether in New York or elsewhere. We want to encourage the art world to engage with these issues.”
For her section, Acevedo-Yates will focus on environmental issues and intergenerational dialogues, as well as what she called “South-South ecologies.” With a mind to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, she has been thinking about “how colonialism, racism and gender violence intersect with environmental struggles,” she said. Ostrander’s section will also take a thematic approach, focusing on the role that monuments play, both within Latin America and the U.S. “I know there are a lot of artists who are responding to the question of ‘What do we monumentalize?’ now,” he said.
Ramírez’s summit, a closed-door, day-long symposium during the fair in September, is set to ask crucial questions, among them: “Who is considered Latin American and/or Latinx? What are the historical bases for those distinctions?”
“Latinx and Latin American art are two very complex, sometimes contested, areas of curatorial practice,” she said. “They share many things but are very different, and I think there’s a lot of confusion among museum professionals who are not involved directly in this field.”
Curating for fairs and museums are two very different things, and Acevedo-Yates and Ostrander said they were excited about the process of doing their work on accelerated timeline because it could allow them to respond to current issues more quickly. Ramírez added that the market context is crucial. “What this art needs right now is legitimacy,” she said, “and only the market and institutions can do that.”
This past September, the Armory Show staged its first edition at the Javits Center in New York—a new venue with new dates. (The fair staged its last pre-pandemic iteration in March 2020, just before lockdown began in the U.S., and did not have to cancel an edition.) Berry expressed hope what for the next edition holds. “We had envisioned 2021 at the Javits Center as a new chapter for the Armory Show, and we feel that we did that,” she said. “It set the stage for the future of the fair.”
According to Ramírez, that future must include a emphasis on Latinx and Latin American art, even when it is not the stated focus of the fair. “In my view, this debate around Latinx art here in the United States is really going to define the next decade—if only because it’s grounded in the fact that this is an ascending minority,” Ramírez said. “This is a matter of survival for these institutions. This is not something we can turn our heads away from.”