As the winter months drags slowly to its conclusion, 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, kicking off its string of fairs across the city. Centering around the annual Armory Show Art Fair on the West Side, the week serves as one of the more important selling weeks of the first half of 2019.
At the center of the week’s proceedings is the massive Armory Show, spread across Piers 90, 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. At Zeno X, one can view work by Michael Borremans, while a striking body of works by Alighiero Boetti at Repetto Gallery.
The fair will also return its curated sections and projects, which aim to bring additional curatorial folds and narratives to the expansive fairgrounds. The Focus section curated by Crystal Bridges Curator Lauren Haynes, focuses on solo- and dual-artist presentations, including a selection of intriguing urban architectural elements by Mounir Fatmi presented by Officine dell’Immagine, while Lawrie Shabibi will show a series of strange steel arrangements by Zak Ové. At the Presents section, reserved for young galleries and artists, one can view a series of exploratory, painterly sculptures by Brie Ruais at Albertz Benda, an expressive sculptures by Fay Ray at Shulamit Nazarian. In Insights, one can view solo-artist, dual-artist and thematic presentations centered around 20th century works, canonical works of modernism and the post-war era as well as overlooked artistic gems and rediscoveries, like a series of Josef Albers works at Ludorff, while New York’s Leslie Feely will present works by Richard Diebenkorn.
Taking up an increasingly prominent place in the field as other fairs seek out different strategies and timings, Independent NY has quietly become 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. This year, Alden Projects will have an intriguing booth, exploring the storyboards created by Ed Ruscha and Mason Williams for the Robert Miller Show, a series of drawings and sketches dismissed by the TV network they pitched, and which now explore a particularly intriguing fusion of pop art and commercial art that feels all the more relevant today. At Arcadia Missa, the gallery will show new video work by Hannah Black, while Ortuzar Projects will present a selection of works by artist Gilles Aillaud.
For the last few years, Armory Week has also meant the opening of the New Art Dealers Association’s annual fair event in the Big Apple, a counterpoint to the event it holds each December in Miami. But this year, the fair is embracing a new strategy, moving away from a single exhibition space, and exploring a model pioneered by the Condo Art Fair to great effect in past years. Welcoming both New York gallery spaces to open their doors for a special exhibition this week, while also inviting out of town galleries to open shows in local gallery spaces, the fair will be a distributed exhibition event, a model that will allow the adventurous visitor to travel across the city viewing various shows and project pieces. At Jack Barrett on Henry Street, for instance, work from a range of galleries including Good Weather (North Little Rock), Franz Kaka (Toronto) and Tatjana Pieters (Gent) will all be on view, while Los Angeles’s LTD will take over a space on Bowery to show work by Ilana Savdie, and local space Callicoon will be showing works by Nicholas Buffon. The show, designed to embrace the city as a thriving community rather than its mere reflection inside a sterile fair environment, the event should be an intriguing look at new strategies for fairs in an increasingly costly real estate market.
And who can forget SPRING/BREAK, the curator-centered exhibition of micro-exhibitions that has defined itself as the scrappy, artist-first program that takes place each year in a range of raw and converted spaces moving across the shifting landscape of Manhattan. The event has moved once again this year, now taking up residence on a single floor of United Nations plaza, a daring substitution that feels like a fitting metaphor for the diverse and wide-ranging perspectives brought to the fore at the event. 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. The fair’s curatorial prompt this year is Fact and Fiction, drawing distinct inspiration from the current political climate and the suspension of concrete realities that define the world of contemporary art production. “As Abstraction and Representation have linked arms in a dance, so have artists with their own self-identification within a work,” a statement reads. “For better or worse, artist identities and lives are more and more considered alongside their artworks, rather than exterior to them as Wilde once advised, and the artist’s personal morality within that work also plumbed.” In a space that prioritizes the social as much as the political, the show offers a particularly fascinating concept.
With a range of gallery openings, impressive museum shows and projects across the city, Armory Week seems to have maintained its stride, bringing together a diverse range of voices that emphasizes New York’s continued impact on the landscape of the art world.
— D. Creahan