Asian artists and exhibitors reported strong sales at the Armory Show 2013, but critics claim that the New York art fair is losing its international appeal.
The Armory Show closed out its centennial-themed edition this weekend at Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River, New York. Running from 7 to 10 March 2013, 210 galleries from thirty countries presented modern and contemporary art to crowds of over 66,000. Art Radar lists the reactions.
In the past, the Armory Show might have had a reputation for being a very American affair, Noah Horowitz, the fair’s executive director, acknowledges in an Artspace interview. But, he claims, the 2013 edition of the fair was different,
The Armory has historically been a strong New York, American art fair, and one thing that we’ve done is to really reach out to collectors, institutions and galleries in other parts of the world throughout the year. This year we’ve brought on a number of new galleries from Asia and the Middle East, for example, from Pekin Fine Arts in Beijing to Edouard Malingue in Hong Kong to Isabelle van den Eynde in Dubai. So I think one thing that we are certainly interested in expanding is this global strength of the gallery programmes that we’re presenting, and I feel very strongly that there’s an eager audience hungry to see that type of material in New York City that maybe doesn’t yet travel as widely as it should.
Some fair goers, however, were less confident about the Armory’s global credentials, noting a scarcity of both buyers and exhibitors from outside the United States. Commentators wondered whether the growing number of alternative art fairs might be crowding out the Armory.
Most dealers also reported an overwhelmingly domestic audience, with fewer European and Asian collectors in evidence. This makes sense, for with so many similar fairs in other parts of the world, collectors no longer need to travel to New York.
Shane Ferro, ARTINFO
Even with the more focused look of the 2013 fair, one could not ignore the absence of many larger galleries, including Mary Boone, White Cube and others, perhaps due to the ever-growing list of art fairs worldwide, and even the increasing number of events held in conjunction with the Armory Show.
It was not only the media that noted a scarcity of overseas participants. Roxana Sursock of London gallery Blain Southern said that the Armory was “not really an international fair anymore“, and artist Taher Shafie expressed a s similar opinion in a comment posted on Artslant,
Writer and critic Jason Farago pointed out in The Guardian that it was not just the rise in overseas art shows that might be threatening the Armory, but that “three other New York fairs have grown in popularity and profitability in recent years, placing the Armory in something of an identity crisis”.
Several media outlets named one fair in particular as a threat to the Armory: London’s Frieze, which launched in New York in 2012. Lori Zimmer of Artslant claimed that in 2013 the “war of the New York art fair weeks” was all about “Armory versus Frieze”, and Karen Rosenberg of The New York Times suggested that the Armory had been “dealt a possible death blow by the upstart Frieze“.
ARTINFO countered that while Frieze and others may reduce the international footfall at the Armory, this might not be too detrimental to sales,
British collectors have been in short supply at this year’s Armory Show, dealers from the region report. Some speculate that the international set is waiting to make the trip for the second edition of Frieze New York, but happily note that Americans have been eager to snatch up work in their place.
Even if international exhibitors and collectors were in short supply, the work of Asian artists sold well, according to reports in online sales watcher Art Market Monitor and ARTINFO. An Anish Kapoor was sold by Lisson Gallery for an undisclosed amount, Blain Southern sold an Ali Banisadr for USD20,000, and Victoria Miro sold two Yayoi Kusama artworks for a total of USD800,000.
Art Daily asserted that “exhibitors reported consistently strong sales“, and large British galleries and New York dealers did particularly well with sales, according to ARTINFO. As New York dealer Sean Kelly told Gallerist NY, “Even before the fair started this year there was anticipation that it would be very good. And it’s been a quick start – we’ve sold lots of things.”
International art consultants Farmboy Fine Arts were also impressed with the fair, tweeting,
Asian exhibitors also seemed pleased with this year’s Armory. Barrak Alzaid of Isabelle van den Eynde Gallery (Dubai) said, in an article published on the news website The Examiner, that “the Armory has offered us a platform to showcase some of the leading artists coming out of the region.” Meg Maggio, director of Pekin Fine Arts (Beijing and Hong Kong), gave more tentative praise in The Guardian, “It’s a much better feeling than in years past; the last time I was here I lasted only 45 minutes.”
The works on display also had an American aesthetic, claimed some members of the press. For ARTINFO, Warhol and his influences were omnipresent, and Aesthetica said that “the spirit of American art was in full force“. Online culture magazine Hyperallergic wondered if the American feel of the fair was too forceful: writer Kyle Chayka claimed that this year’s “Armory Focus” section, usually dedicated to emerging markets but this year showcasing United States art, missed its curatorial mark and “fell flat”.
Asian artists provided highlights for some fair goers. A sculptural work by Iranian Reza Aramesh impressed Art Review‘s Brienne Walsh with its figuration of war, which, according to Walsh, cut through the commercialism of the fair. Critic Daniel Kunitz, writing in ARTINFO, was drawn to Pakistani Imran Qureshi’s watercolours for similar reasons: the painted footprints reminded him of both flower petals and splashes of blood. Art Observed praised Galleria Continua (Beijing and Hong Kong) for its strong selection of artworks; the gallery was selling a piece by Ai Weiwei, among other artists.
Watch the video below to see the highlights of the Armory Show 2013, as selected by Matthew Drutt, Executive Director of the Blouin Cultural Advisory Board.
Dates for next year’s Armory Show have been confirmed: the fair will take place 6 to 9 March 2014, with a preview for invited guests taking place on Wednesday 5 March.
Did you attend the 2013 Armory Show? Leave your thoughts about the event in the comment box below.
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