As the winter months draw slowly to a close, and the weather shifts into more temperate conditions, New York City will once again step into its role as a central hub of the contemporary art market, and the global art fair circuit, as a string of fairs and exhibitions open up across the city. Centering around the annual Armory Show Art Fair on the West Side, the scale of the proceedings seem to only get larger each year (so much so that this year mainstay the ADAA Art Show branched out into its own week), yet attention continues to center around a selection of fairs spread across Manhattan.
At the center of the week’s proceedings is the massive Armory Show, spread across Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s West Side. Regarded as one of the premiere events of Manhattan’s annual arts calendar, the Armory Show draws on the city’s tradition as a center of modern arts practice, dating all the way back to the original Armory Show hosted in 1913. Today, gone are the rhetorical exercises of the avant-garde, replaced by a cosmopolitan arrangement of international galleries bringing some of the strongest work from around the globe to a single location, while touching on both contemporary practice and historically-resonant works. Combining curated programs with its broad base of galleries, the show continues to be an expansive tour of contemporary art from around the globe.
The gallery program for the fair leaves an open framework for curators and dealers to sell, with a strong focus on major works and blue-chip artists. Gagosian will be on hand, of course, bringing forth a striking body of works by early media Nam June Paik, while at Two Palms, on can view an editioned series of Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball works. At Marianne Boesky, the gallery will bring a range of works from Donald Moffett and Hannah van Bart, among others, while at Lisson Gallery, one can view a broad selection of works by gallery artists like Allora and Calzadilla, Laure Prouvost and more.
The fair will also return its curated sections and projects, which aim to bring additional curatorial folds and narratives to the expansive fairgrounds. The selected shows here, curated by Bostonian Jen Mergel. The show is a wide-ranging and intriguing selection of works, exploring mixtures of socially-embedded practice and monumental pieces. Street artist JR is represented here via Jeffrey Deitch, as is Richard Long at Lisson Gallery, each exploring their own takes on movement, space and time, as well as the body’s relationship to others. The Focus section, by contrast, explores a range of galleries and project spaces exploring their own curatorial interests, bringing a vitally fresh perspective to the fair. Projects this year include an exploration of the work of digital artist Constant Dullaart at Upstream Gallery, and work by Claire Tabouret at Night Gallery. Bringing together these diverse perspectives and pieces in a single space, it’s difficult to imagine a more expansive opportunity for viewing new art and classic works than the Armory Show each year.
Filling the empty space left by the absence of the ADAA during the heart of fair week, NADA returns to Armory Week for its second year of March sales. Prior to its run during this week, the fair had operated during Frieze Week in May, and its move to forestall the dreaded “fair fatigue” seems to have paid off. NADA’s run last year made it a can’t miss staple, particularly in its new TriBeCa exhibition space. This year, the fair returns for another go, bringing its familial atmosphere and strong curatorial focus to the forefront. Nicelle Beauchene will bring a series of new paintings by Alex Bradley Cohen, while Galerie Christian Lethert will bring an impressive series of works by Imi Knoebel, and Makasiini Contemporary will bring forth a skeletal series of paintings by Liisa Pesonen.
Splitting the difference between the high-profile proceedings of the Armory Show and NADA’s looser, more exploratory feel, Independent NY has quietly taken up a place as one of the premier exhibition projects of fair week. Welcoming a tightly-curated set of galleries with ample exhibition space and a close-knit atmosphere that makes it a must-attend for those looking for the best of the week’s events. Expect a broad range of works and styles here, with an emphasis on exploration and technique. Air de Paris will have an intriguing booth, showcasing painter Eliza Douglas’s pop-culture montages, while 303 Gallery will present a striking body of photography by Hans-Peter Feldmann. At Ghebaly Gallery, expect works from artist Sayre Gomez, while The Sunday Painter will present a body of new works by Cynthia Daignault.
And last, but certainly not least, is the freewheeling expanse of SPRING/BREAK, a curator-based exhibition of works on view at a rented office space in Times Square. Organized around projects and curators rather than gallerists, the show is a fascinating exploration into young artists, young curatorial voices, and the possibilities for new modes of art. Previous years have included a pop-up bar, bizarre dramatic performances, and screenings by artists like Christian Boltanski. Organized this year around the concept “A Stranger Comes to Town,” the show will explore otherness, the act of expression, and the problems of understanding in a hyper-connected age. “The mating of opposites is often central to great art, and to the free, madcap breeding of Culture,” the show program reads. “The Stranger sometimes comes to town, rather than being run out of it, turning on all the lights with a messianic glow. Sometimes, Outsider and Insider are two broken halves, making each other complete. When is the exchange rate equitable, complicated, cathartic, holy?” The answer may present itself next week.
Of course, there are plenty more exhibitions and projects popping up around the city in the coming days, ones which should reward the intrepid viewer for their dogged exploration of the city’s varied galleries and museums. For even as such a wealth of work comes to New York for its annual selling events, the shows equally serve as a reminder of just how much artistic wealth the city still holds, and how rewarding it can be to find when you search it out.
The fairs open March 8th.