New York’s Armory Week Insights

by Admin on 03/19/2012

By Patter Hellstrom

Armory Arts Week rates at the top of international art events with 60,000 in attendance and over 40 million dollars transacted economic activity in New York City.  The Armory Show at Pier 92/94 led the proceedings with 228 international galleries of modern and contemporary art, nineteen of which were invited from Nordic countries. The fourteenth Armory edition found Paul Morris (founder), speaking of its dedication to innovation, highlighting the new floor plan and Street Seats designed by Bade Stageberg Cox. Street Seats draws on what is uniquely New York with the addition of abandoned chairs found on city streets. After repair and a taxicab yellow paint job, the eclectic mix of chairs were added to the café adding a human scale. Following that repurposing theme, Armory commissioned artist Theaster Gates to create limited editions with proceeds going to charitable causes plus used his found object based sculpture to brand this years’ event.

Theaster Gates 

The prominence of San Francisco galleries and artists continues to grow as the Armory includes Haines Gallery, Hackett – Mill and Ratio 3 galleries. Hackett-Mill on the modern pier led with museum quality work by Bay Area figurative artist David Park. Haines presented Monir Farmanfarmaian who is concurrently exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Arab Lands contemporary exhibit. Cheryl Haines said, “Our experience exhibiting at this year’s Armory show was superb. The re-envisioned overall aesthetic of the fair seemed very successful as reported by many of the visitors and the mood was rather expansive as befitting the more comfortable surroundings and the apparent renewed enthusiasm for acquisition by the collectors in attendance.” Ration 3 presented work by Lutz Bacher, an artist included in the Whitney Biennial. For this viewers’ eye, the Bacher “hide and seek” pages from the Celestial handbook in the Biennial were some of the most intriguing pieces in that exhibition, seeming to pop-up around corners when least expected.

Monir Farmanfarmaian at Haines Gallery

A dozen satellite fairs make-up the bulk of Armory Week and included Volta in Midtown, Uptown The ADAA Art Show and Independent in Chelsea. These three offered an excellent complement to the piers. Volta presented solo exhibits by emerging artists and displayed clear depth in concept though a variety of media. Technology played a strong role even when the means were more intuitive. Volta offered California galleries alongside their international counterparts with Blythe Projects (LA) offering James Carr’s mix of global concepts illuminated through technology and Marx+Zavattero (San Francisco) exhibit of William Swanson’s photo-based landscapes that are both diagrammatic and engineered to order nature.

William Swanson at Marx and Zavattero 

The ADDA Art Show uptown included over 70 galleries and is the nation’s longest running art fair offering work in a museum like setting. San Francisco’s Anthony Meier Fine Arts teamed with New York’s Gladstone Gallery to present a solo exhibit of LA artist Dave Mueller’s works on paper, which explored text and the popular culture, while Berggruen’s selected works included artists with Bay Area roots like Serra and Thiebaud. Independent offered 43 galleries in a less structured formant with one exhibition flowing gracefully into the next. In its’ third year, Independent was the brainchild of Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flock. Filled with painterly works such as a newly minted David Salle at Maureen Paley – great quality works make this fair a joy to visit.

Dave Mueller at Anthony Meier Fine Arts and New York’s Gladstone Gallery

The Whitney 2012 Biennial led the museums in must-see exhibitions. New York Times’ Roberta Smith commented on a new bar set for curatorial collaboration, democracy of objects and movement-based art forms. Retrospectives were offered by sculptor, John Chamberlin at the Guggenheim, speaking to a lifetime of exploration of form and color in space and photographer, Cindy Sherman with her classic yet evolving self-portraits, defining aspects of American culture at MOMA (SFMOMA July 2012). The Metropolitan put forth The Steins Collect, a fantastic show focused on collecting in the 1920’s in Paris, which began its tour at SFMOMA and the newly opened Arab Lands, which dazzled viewers as the permanent collection was recontexturalized.

In closing, 2012 Armory Week offered a great many insights, delights and surprises that will long be unpacked and enjoyed.

Patter Hellstrom is an American abstract painter whose works are exhibited by galleries in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. In addition to her studio practice, she is an entrepreneur with a successful curatorial business.