With another hectic Armory Week comes another edition of the Art Dealers Association of America’s Art Show, open at the Park Avenue Armory. Now in its 25th edition, The Art Show is the nation’s longest continually running art fair, offering viewers a smaller, more scaled back experience in contrast with The Armory Show held out on New York’s Hell’s Kitchen Piers. The show’s more focused collection of 72 leading dealers and galleries allow viewers a slightly less overwhelming experience moving from booth to booth, and also provide slightly more space for the work to breath.
This year’s Art Show continued its reputation for museum-quality exhibitions, with a number of noteworthy galleries in attendance that had not chosen to exhibit at The Armory Show, particularly a number of New York galleries that included 303, Sperone Westwater, Petzel and Marian Goodman, that provided a distinct local flavor to the exhibitions. Continuing in their tradition of tightly curated exhibition booths, this year’s version of the fair saw an unprecedented 40 solo or two-person exhibitions (up from 30 last year) by the galleries in attendance, with another 32 galleries presenting thematic exhibitions spanning the past 100 years of modern and contemporary art.
With the increased focus on solo exhibitions, many galleries rose to the occasion, bringing forth tightly curated selections from their artist rosters and in some cases focusing the presentation of their booth around thematic elements. The hanging chandelier and antique furniture of 303 Gallery, for example, made for a fitting complement to Karen Kilimnik’s haunting, historically ambiguous paintings, and Mitchell Innes & Nash brought out a full-wall portrait of sculptor Jean Arp for the gallery’s presentation of his works. Other galleries were content to focus on only a few works. Louise Lawler’s exhibition at Metro Pictures, consisting of three separately-hued prints of the same image, presented a minimal but captivating experience for viewers.
There was certainly no shortage of big names at the fair this year. Immediately upon entering the Armory, viewers were greeted by a series of portrait photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe for the Sean Kelly booth, depicting fellow artists (among them Keith Haring and Andy Warhol), friends, and even the artist himself. In another section, Marian Goodman Gallery had used its space to further profile artist Tacita Dean, coming off a highly praised exhibition of works from documenta (13) at the gallery’s Uptown exhibition space. Fellow YBA alum Damien Hirst was also on hand, exhibiting several dot paintings, a spin painting, sculptures, and wall-mounted works at Van de Weghe Gallery’s booth, offering a concise view of the artist’s recent practice.
Of particular note was Wim Delvoye’s solo booth for Sperone Westwater. Pulling from the artist’s vast range of conceptual practice, viewers were treated to a close look at his intricately rendered D11 bulldozer sculpture, constructed using the architectural elements of Gothic cathedrals. Sperone Westwater also had one of his signature tattooed and stuffed pigs available, as well as several potential branding sketches for Delvoye’s Cloaca machine, which converts food to waste without any human input. Covering a broad swath of the artist’s career without feeling crowded, the show made quite an impression with viewers even given fair’s noteworthy offerings.
Alongside more recent works, some galleries chose to focus on more historically focused views of their artists. David Zwirner selected a number of early works by American painter Milton Avery, allowing visitors a glimpse into the artist’s development, and his peculiar sense of humor applied to the everyday. Mnuchin Gallery also looked to the past, focusing solely on the portraits of Mao Zedong done by Andy Warhol in the early 1970′s, and Petzel Gallery reviewed the work of Pictures Generation artist Troy Brauntuch through a series of the artist’s ominous, black and gray canvases. Other notable shows included packed booths of works by Martin Wong (P•P•O•W Gallery), and another for the New York School’s Robert Motherwell (Lillian Heidelberg). There was also a stunning series of collotype plates by Eadweard Muybridge on view at Laurence Miller Gallery, showcasing work that would lay the ground for the development of the motion picture only a few years later.
Painting figured heavily at this year’s edition of the fair. Many standout booths focused almost exclusively on the medium, with strong showings of recent work by Zhu Jinshi at Blum & Poe and Robert Bechtle at Gladstone Gallery. Of particular note was Lehman Maupin’s exhibition of recent works by Light and Space affiliated artist Mary Corse. Her bright, himmering canvases covered in glass microspheres attracted a great deal of attention from passers-by, shifting its shades and accents based on the viewer’s perspective.
Alongside these solo shows, a number of galleries brought forward well-conceived and executed thematic booths. Of particular note was a set of several booths focusing on post-war conceptual and abstract works. Barbara Krakow presented a strong selection of works by Sol LeWitt, Daniel Buren, Richard Serra and Donald Judd, while Brooke Alexander brought forth a strong selection of wall-mounted works and paintings that included works by Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Luc Tuymans, Jasper Johns and Ellsworth Kelly. Each work was well-considered and positioned within the exhibitions, and presented a visual tour de force for lovers of 1960′s and 70′s art. Skarstedt Gallery also presented a strong retrospective, focusing on visual works of the 1980′s, including Carroll Dunham, Martin Kippenberger, Cindy Sherman and Keith Haring.
These contemporary works were complemented by several booths focusing on early 20th century works. Standouts included a survey of expressionist works by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and more at Galerie St. Etienne, as well as a survey of Matisse’s influence on the world of contemporary art presented by Pace Prints. Side by side with more contemporary works, these booths served as a perfect complement to balance out the total presentation of the show.
Taken as a whole, the ADAA Show presents a smaller, more tightly conceived experience than its more ambitious cousin in Hell’s Kitchen, but the concentrated approach pays off, presenting a focused, cohesive show that feels less like an open market than a curated festival. Despite the Armory Show’s actively vocal celebration of the 100 year anniversary of its namesake, it would seem that a considerable credit goes to the ADAA as a premier representative of American art in New York.
All photos by Daniel Creahan for Art Observed unless otherwise noted