Last week was art week in New York. There were many art shows to visit, including The Art Show, The Armory Show, SCOPE, Volta NY and Verge Art Brooklyn. On Wednesday, March 7, I went to the opening of The Art Show, which was organized by ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America) and held at The Park Avenue Armory. The space was full to overflowing. The fair showcases a range of artwork from cutting-edge 21st century works to masterpieces from the 19th and 20th centuries. I have attended this show for many years, and in recent years there appears to be more contemporary dealers participating -- some dealers have booths in both fairs, the Armory Show and The Art Show.
On Thursday, March 8, I went to the opening of The Armory Show which ran through Sunday, March 11 on Piers 92 and 94 in Midtown Manhattan. The Armory Show is a leading international, contemporary and modern art fair with 228 dealers presenting artwork in two different sections, one devoted to 20th century art, the other to 21st century art. There is an Open Forum program with major art-world figures; Armory Film, a series featuring an international selection of leading contemporary video and experimental films curated by Moving Image; and Armory Arts Week in partnership with New York's top cultural institutions.
I enjoyed looking at the art without the crowds, as by 4 p.m., during the VIP preview, the show was mobbed (I overheard someone mention that the day after the opening is a good day to visit the show, as it is less crowded after the opening). I learned the VIP viewing is tiered, with VIP and special VIP previewing. There was also an internet pre-preview of artwork. For the average fair visitor, it would seem the artwork has already been picked over by the time one arrives. I would recommend visiting the fairs early in the evening, because it is less dense and therefore more enjoyable. There didn't seem to be as many blue chip galleries from New York City in the contemporary section as in previous years, but as one gallery owner told me, many of the New York galleries already have a New York presence and don't see the need to pay the extra booth fee to be at the fair. I shared a nice lunch (and break) with Peter Schjeldahl, whose writing and criticism I have always admired. It was fun to compare notes about the fair and talk art.
I returned to The Art Show when I found The Armory Show too exhausting and too crowded. The Art Show was like a breath of fresh air. There were very few people there (they were probably all at The Armory Show). I saw one dealer playing solitaire on his computer and others absorbed with their phones or laptops. Although maybe not so great for business, I enjoyed walking through The Art Show the day after the opening without the crowds. I discovered a beautiful Winslow Homer watercolor that reminded me of a painting at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as well as a nice Homer watercolor at Hirschl and Adler. I have always liked the drawings of Klimt and Schiele, perhaps because my drawings that appeared in The New Yorker for ten years shared the importance and delight of pure line. Galerie St. Etienne includes drawings by both artists. I had admired the presentation of the Carla Accardi exhibit at Sperone Westwater. It stood out impressively at the opening evening. Mitchell Inness Nash had one of Kenneth Noland's target paintings (Bolton Landing #9). I remember Noland's assistant sharing that when the target paintings were really popular, they would "pop one out a day for $35,000 a pop."
As I looked around, I noticed some differences from The Armory Show. The Art Show had grey rugs and a lot of the booths were painted gray or had color. The Armory show had no rugs and the booths were mostly white, creating a starker impression than the warmth and richness of The Art Show. It could also be that the paintings that were once cutting edge are now aged and framed in elegant, rich frames. I returned to The Armory Show for the Vernissage, which was a zoo, and again ran into Peter Schjeldahl, who asked me what pill I was on to have visited both of the fairs.
There are many lectures, events and art related things to do around the fairs. Next year, be sure to wear comfortable shows, as there is a lot of walking. Too many shows, too little time.