The Armory Show steps into its 22nd year with a headlining focus on African perspectives.

Art Radar brings you gallery highlights from African and Asian contemporary artists.

Nengi Omuku, 'Stay', 2015, oil on canvas, 63 x 78 7/10 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Omenka Gallery.

Nengi Omuku, ‘Stay’, 2015, oil on canvas, 63 x 78 7/10 in. Image courtesy the artist and Omenka Gallery.

A Manhattan affair

Now in its 22nd year, The Armory Show has more than proved its indomitable status in the New York and international art scene. A study by economist Clare McAndrew recorded total sales of USD200 million over the fair’s five-day run last year, and the 65,000-strong footfall made it the second most-attended fair in the world after Art Basel Miami Beach. Recently appointed Fair Director Benjamin Genocchio, former Editor-in-Chief of Artnet News, tells The Art Newspaper:

This is a fair that trades off the city, as opposed to a city that trades off the fair […] We don’t need to fly in our collectors – they’re here.

Kazuo Shiraga, 'Kaku Rou (Threatening Wolf)', 1963, oil paint on canvas, 90 x 116 cm. Signed and titled in Japanese characters and dated 1963 on the reverse. Image courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Kazuo Shiraga, ‘Kaku Rou (Threatening Wolf)’, 1963, oil paint on canvas, 90 x 116 cm. Signed and titled in Japanese characters and dated 1963 on the reverse. Image courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Featuring 205 exhibitors from 36 countries this year, The Armory Show 2016 is set to take place in its usual Pier 92 & 94 location overlooking the Hudson river. One of the new additions that Genocchio, who joined only this January, has brought to the fair is a private top-of-the-line viewing room just off the Focus lounge. Speaking to Artsy, Genocchio says:

One of the things that I’m most interested in is trying to put the focus back on the visitor and exhibitor experience. […] A lot of very serious collectors really don’t want to be in a fair environment. The Jerry Speyers of the world, they have no interest because it’s very difficult to view art, serious art, at a fair.

Aubrey Williams, 'Symphony No 10, opus 93 (Shostakovich series)', 1981, oil on canvas, 163 x 245 cm. Photo by Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the Aubrey Williams Estate and October Gallery London.

Aubrey Williams, ‘Symphony No 10, opus 93 (Shostakovich series)’, 1981, oil on canvas, 163 x 245 cm. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the Aubrey Williams Estate and October Gallery London.

“Focus: African Perspectives”

Private viewing room or not, visitors are in for a treat: one of the largest collections of contemporary African art ever assembled in the United States will go on show in the fair’s Focus section. Curated by Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba of Contemporary And, “Focus: African Perspectives – Spotlighting Artistic Practices of Global Contemporaries” will showcase the work of 15 participating artists represented by 14 international galleries. Audrey Rose Smith, the fair’s Communications Director, comments to The Independent:

This is the largest grouping of contemporary African artists at an American art fair to date. In addition to the 14 galleries represented in Focus, Gallery MOMO, Stevenson and Goodman Gallery are also exhibiting in the Main section on Pier 94.

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, 'To Deny the Value of Cultural Identity', 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery.

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, ‘To Deny the Value of Cultural Identity’, 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery.

All Focus galleries are presenting a single artist with the exception of London’s October Gallery, who will exhibit works by established artist Aubrey Williams (1926-1990) and the young Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga (b. 1991). Williams’s vibrant abstractions found inspiration from Rothko, Gorky and Pollock, the music of Shostakovich and the iconography of pre-Columbian cultures, while Ilunga’s electric and monumental series Mangbetu explores the predicament of the Mangbetu ethnic group.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, 'The Opening of Khartoum', 1989, ink on paper, three panels, 64.5 x 136.5 cm (each panel: 64.1 x 45.1 cm), framed: 64.5 x 45.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Vigo Gallery.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, ‘The Opening of Khartoum’, 1989, ink on paper, three panels, 64.5 x 136.5 cm (each panel: 64.1 x 45.1 cm), framed: 64.5 x 45.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Vigo Gallery.

Vigo Gallery will present a selection of works from visionary Sudanese modernist Ibrahim El-Salahi‘s (b. 1930) acclaimed “Black and White” series. Favourites of the artist himself, these ink on paper works are reminiscent of calligraphy and El-Salahi’s earlier work. Notably, El-Salahi will be opening a solo exhibition entitled “Alhambra” at Salon 94 during Armory Week, exhibiting both new and old works.

Cyrus Kabiru, 'Njia Ya Maisha, Macho Nne - Brazillian Mask', 2015, pigment ink on premium satin photographic paper, 150 x 120 cm. Image courtesy the artist and SMAC Gallery.

Cyrus Kabiru, ‘Njia Ya Maisha, Macho Nne – Brazillian Mask’, 2015, pigment ink on premium satin photographic paper, 150 x 120 cm. Image courtesy the artist and SMAC Gallery.

Also noteworthy are the works of young fast-rising stars Cyrus Kabiru (b. 1984) and Nengi Omuku (b. 1987), presented by SMAC Gallery and Omenka Gallery respectively. Omuku’s iridescent metaphorical landscapes and hybrid beings are representative of different physical states in the process of energy conversion, while Kabiru’s trademark C-stunners are a striking and shrewd commentary on contemporary capitalism. As SMAC’s press release writes:

The wearer of the C-stunners is both a bespectacled visionary and ‘blinkered’ by the charms of consumer culture.

Broomberg & Chanarin, 'Trace fiber from Freud's couch under crossed polars with Quartz wedge compensator (#2)', 2015, unique jacquared woven tapestry, 290 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Broomberg & Chanarin, ‘Trace fiber from Freud’s couch under crossed polars with Quartz wedge compensator (#2)’, 2015, unique jacquared woven tapestry, 290 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Highlights from Asia

Other highlights from Asia include recent works by Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor and Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary at Lisson Gallery. In addition, a tapestry made from the fibres found on Sigmund Freud’s iconic couch, by South African artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin, will also be on view, along with an umbrella carved out of marble by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Yayoi Kusama, 'PUMPKIN', 2015, stainless steel and blue urethane paint, 58 x 56 1/8 x 55 1/8 inches. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; KUSAMA Enterprise.

Yayoi Kusama, ‘Pumpkin’, 2015, stainless steel and blue urethane paint, 58 x 56 1/8 x 55 1/8 in. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; KUSAMA Enterprise.

David Zwirner is presenting a new Yayoi Kusama pumpkin created in 2015, part of a new series of stainless steel sculptures featuring perforated dots. The juxtaposition between its steel materiality and its lush organic shape creates an uncanny psychedelic impression, bringing Kusama’s interpretations of her favourite vegetable into a new era.

Tsuyoshi Maekawa, '1968 G 3', 1968, burlap, oil on canvas, 27.3 x 22 cm. Signed and dated on the reverse. Image courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Tsuyoshi Maekawa, ‘1968 G 3’, 1968, burlap, oil on canvas, 27.3 x 22 cm. Signed and dated on the reverse. Image courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Finally, riding on the recent surge in Gutai interest, Axel Vervoordt is putting forth a strong selection of postwar Japanese works, including much-anticipated masterpieces by Shiraga Kazuo and Yoshihara Jiro. Retracing the New York avant-garde art scene of the 1950s-1960s in remembrance of pioneering art dealer Martha Jackson, the gallery unites Shiraga and Yoshihara with contemporaries Shozo Shimamoto, Yuko Nasaka and Tsuyoshi Maekawa in a specially curated sale.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Asian art, African art, art fairs, market watch, events in New York

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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