Even before Covid, the art world was changing rapidly. The sales that used to take place in New York or Basel, via a hushed conversation, are now done via Instagram all over the world. Large galleries are merging to follow mega-galleries, while small galleries, one way or another, continue to multiply.
From a strictly business standpoint, this fall’s Art Week – which has been postponed from spring and continues through Sunday – represents an attempt to continue as before, but with a few tweaks. The armory show, the first major U.S. art fair since the pandemic, has become even more American as travel restrictions and complications have pushed 55 exhibitors, mostly Europeans, into the fair’s new online-only component. Visitors to Manhattan’s sprawling Javits Center, the show’s new home, will need to prove they are vaccinated or have a recent negative coronavirus test, as they will in most venues throughout the week. (Check health protocols first.)
When the Armory Show moved in the fall, satellite broadcasts such as Spring Break, Art on paper, Clio, and the little stylish Independent followed him until September. The brand new Fair of the future, founded in 2020, is finally performing in person too. All in all, these are the New York art fairs as you’ve known and loved, or hated them, and it’s just not yet clear whether attendance and sales will keep their model viable.
For most people, of course, the art business is in the background right now. Asked what counts as success in the gallery’s first live appearance since Covid, Lisa Spellman, founder of the Gallery 303, replied: “Just seeing people!” Ebony L. Haynes, who will lead the David Zwirner Gallery’s new TriBeCa space in October, said: “You can never replace seeing art in person. “
This excitement itself is cause for optimism. “One of the main reasons for a thriving art market is exciting art,” said Jeffrey Deitch, a gallery owner opening two New York salons this weekend. “And we have some exciting art right now.”
And for the first time in a long time, we also have a community that sees this art together. As Tom eccles, who heads the Hessel Museum of Art, said: “Art needs, or the art market needs a society around it.”
What follows is a guide to the highlights of a provocative, resilient, precarious and exciting new art season – and its society – in New York City. Martha Schwendener reviews the Independent art fair, while Siddhartha Mitter takes the new Fair of the future, and I preview the Armory Show, below.
What to see at the Armory Show
The 157 exhibitors of the Javits Center are divided into sections: the presentations in To concentrate, curated by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, of the Contemporary Art Museum of Saint-Louis, are more topical; Gifts includes younger galleries; Solo is for single artist presentations; and Galleries includes larger names.
Platform, a stand-alone section in the middle of the room (look for the terrific cardboard relief sculptures by Michael Rakowitz and a huge painting by Benny Andrews), was curated by Claudia Schmuckli of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. Here are the must-see galleries, along with their booth numbers.
When the Haitian-American artist Didier Guillaume started showing in New York, he painted dark figures on wood panels and marked them with hundreds of tiny eye-shaped pits, suggesting that being alive, especially as a black man, had to be hurt, but to be hurt was also to see. His latest figures are still covered in eyes, but they are also modeled more confidently in space, as well as dressed in streaks of brightly colored paint drips. “Just Us Three”, which shows two nude figures carrying a child, may offer a key to this new exuberance – the artist recently became a father.
Working as a collective called Hilma’s Ghost, in consultation with “professional witch” Sarah Potter, the artists Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray recently introduced a wonderful new Geometric Abstraction Tarot deck. The 72 original drawings – along with some related paintings – are on display here. The debt to Hilma af Klint is obvious, but Hilma’s Ghost also pulled from an artist of the occult – the drawings of Pamela Colman Smith for the classic Rider-Waite tarot card deck, and the results are a fascinating mix – trippy yet functional, busy yet harmonious. (Bridges are also available.)
The Irish-born artist, based in New York George bolster identifies a curious aspect of science fiction visuals: that the most compelling otherworldly landscapes are those here on Earth. Shooting ghostly scenes of the American West in high-resolution video, he selects still images and renders them as tapestries in warm, slightly unreal colors. They are like pharmaceutical ads from another America where research on psychedelics has never stopped.
At the crows fair, an annual gathering hosted by the Apsáalooke (Crow) nation in Montana, people decorate their cars with textiles and other meaningful items and drive in a parade. By photographing these vehicles, cutting them out, and mounting them against patterned fabric, artist Crow Wendy red star translates these gestures into a radically different medium and context. Along with the photos is a sculpture of a gray pickup truck topped with a large war hood to match the real truck driven by his father, a Vietnam veteran.
Born in Anniston, Alabama, and raised in Brooklyn, Jamillah Jennings stood out as a sculptor, showing with her husband, painter Ellsworth Ausby. But in the late 1980s, she began making acrylic paintings on paper, based on photos of her father and other black WWII veterans, as well as other friends and family, and so on. is the first time that the results are shown. . With bright, solid backgrounds and pale eyes, the portraits stun you with their frankness; their subtle sophistication registers more slowly. Don’t miss the 15 hanging in the stand closet – or two fabulous geometric ausby paintings.
One of the pleasures of an art fair is accidental synchronicity – unexpected echoes between works in two unrelated stalls. A large grid of photos documenting a performance called “Daily tasks on 5th Avenue”, by Istvan Ist Huzjan, presented by Monclova projects de Mexico City, shows the artist in black and white walking down a crosswalk as he collects all the trash on New York’s Museum Mile. On the other side of the Javits Center, Lume Gallery de São Paulo presents a series of austere works that include several photographs of white lines on black pavement by Ana Vitória Mussi.
You can smell the mist and smell the sand underfoot in these acrylic scenes of Iran’s bodies of water, some of them framed in papier-mâché, by the young painter Meghdad Lorpour. An untitled view from the back of a speedboat mostly captures the eerie allure of an underwater view, an eternity that doesn’t care about us and is therefore as frightening as it is serene.
The English painter Jessie makinson had just hung his first solo show in New York, a sultry and disorienting group of elves and others not quite human, when Covid closed his gallery. Thus, this presentation of a single artist, centered on a huge image of earth spirits associating around an oily black pool (“Me Time”), is an expected start.
Jeanne Liotta works on spheres – the one we live in and those in other orbits. Most distinctive of the colorful gel-on-lightbox collages that appear here, along with a pair of LED sculptures by Rachel Rosheger, is the way they deftly get around all the usual associations. They are not science fiction, nor astrological, nor wacky, nor even scientific. One image of the earth in particular, covered with concentric circles and a yellow section, appears rooted in mere observational wonder, although there may be a hint of ancient Greek geometry.
In an art fair full of bright colors scrambling for attention, six stunning quilts stand out like the real deal. Done by Elizabeth talford scott (1916-2011) in the ’80s and’ 90s, the pieces are irregularly shaped and incorporate loose thread, beads, sequins, and even tight little bags of polished pebbles with their many small pieces of patterned fabric. They are almost like feats of higher mathematics: they seem far too complicated to put together as singular compositions, but somehow they are.
A cover of Kenny Rivero’s recent exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum, this collection of drawings on paper found by the 40-year-old Washington Heights-born artist is an art fair in itself. Naivety and sophistication, innocence and insight change places in the work so quickly that one has the impression of being on quicksand. All you can do is take the advice of red eyed zombie Superman in one piece and “dream your dream dreams”.
A pair of stop-motion animations by Hugo crothwaite, on a woman’s journey from Tijuana to the United States, are on display here along with dozens of drawings used to make them. Made with both graphite and acrylic, the animated scenes reach a haunting variety of tones: acres of newspaper gray, crumpling against the shallow perspective of the drawings, are periodically split by a sudden band of velvety black.
The armory show
Until Sunday at the Javits Center, Manhattan. Visitors must wear a mask and show proof of full vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours. Timed ticket office; thearmoryshow.com.