Long before it became The Armory Show, it was the highly experimental perversely satirical Gramercy International Art Fair, a playing ground for a new generation of radical artists and gallerists. It took place inside the hotel of the same name and was the meeting ground for the downtown New York art scene. The four gallerists who founded it called “a motley generation of starving dealers" and “unorthodox micro-galleries” emerged in the wake of the 1992 stock market crash and are now all legendary in their own right: Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, Paul Morris and Colin De Land. It was an intentionally non-commercial daring happening, rather than an art fair, in all the best, sexiest, hippest ways possible. The inaugural year Jay Jopling took over two rooms and held court with Tracey Emin showing her Hotel International blanket on the bed. Like the other gallerists including Gavin Brown and Friedrich Petzel even if they didn’t sell anything they still had a room to party through the night.
De Land had a trucker hat that read “Don’t bother me unless you’re buying.” But he was anything but all business. Near the end of his legendary gallery American Fine Arts, he allowed artist Gareth James to close the gallery for a month in 2001 to protest art commercialization. The show was meant to "articulate the persistence of the logic of capitalist property relations” in other words, it foreshadowed the speculative Chelsea real estate market that continues until today to price galleries out. We could use this move now more than ever. De Land also taught a heroic class to young collectors, proving how important it is to really look deeply at exhibitions and immerse yourself in scholarship and research. Exhibitionary champions his spirit by providing a resource for all collectors to continue to see the best public exhibitions while the galleries are still open. We look back to the 90s anti-art scene for ways to push back against Trump’s insane motto “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) and return to the micro.
The bubble around contemporary art may be bursting while at the same time the rising stock market (at an all-time high) strengthens the top 1% of the multi-billion dollar auction market. There is a graveyard of works that critics Jerry Saltz and Walter Robinson dubbed young "Zombies" of swappable formalist paintings by 20-something overhyped emerging artists. This may mark a shift away from art-as-investment flippers (hopefully). The silver lining is that galleries are able to take risks again.
There is a movement for young galleries to rediscover older late-career artists that have been overlooked. These rediscoveries are among the best current shows in New York including Vikky Alexander at Downs & Ross, Lynn Hershman Leeson at Bridget Donahue, Mary Beth Edelson at David Lewis, Bill Saylor at Magenta Plains and Bonnie Lucas at JTT. Those exhibitions are maybe helping to rewrite art history in exciting new ways. You can expect to see soon these artists reappear on view in museums which often have the work in their permanent collection but currently in storage. This move to show older artists also recontextualizes the post-internet artists among others and of course keeps the market buoyant.
The current day nerve center of young galleries is the non-profit New Art Dealers Alliance who we are partnering with to present the NADA x Exhibitionary International Gallery Prize. The prize is awarded to San Juan-based Galeria Agustina Ferreyra for their outstanding program (which includes the wonderful Heather Guertin) and their dedication to work with Latin American artists like Adriana Minoliti, Cristina Tufiño, and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz. This year at the New York fair they are presenting extensive works from Cristina Tufiño who is one of the most exciting Puerto Rican artists working today. She works across media, and her practice explores the possibility of images inspired by the trash of consumption and industrial debris through an autobiographical lens.
NADA New York has moved this year from Frieze Week to Armory Week (which leaves Frieze all alone out on their island). They have also moved to a better location that is easier to reach nearby Independent and Armory. The top must-sees include – as always – art that you can not see anywhere else. Painter Ali Altin combines text and figuration. He is presented by Weiss Berlin who has boldly become a great gallery for painting (in an anti-painting city). Athena Papadopoulos uses cloth in every sort infusing nearly everything with reds and pinks in a deeply controlled chaos of scrawled text and photo-transfer on sculptures to be seen at the Shoot the Lobster booth. Raúl De Nieves who we have long championed celebrates darker themes of life and death in the most urgent way with perfect maximalism and nearly excessive detail presented by Company Gallery. Heidi Hahn is another painter to watch whose language actually also speaks to a new-figuration at longtime stalwart Jack Hanley Gallery who just had its 30 year anniversary. Iranian-born Sheree Hovsepian is a fantastic mid-career artist finally getting recognition by exploring formalism in highly manipulated abstract photographs at Nicole Klagsbrun. We love Walter Robinson; he was up until recently one of the unsung heroes of the Picture Generation maybe because he worked in not popular small-scale paintings instead of large-scale photography shown at Galerie Sébastien Bertrand.
The Armory Show is revamped by its new director, Benjamin Genocchio, who transforms the focus section into a curation by Jarrett Gregory titled “What is To Be Done?” This is a shift in the right direction; the title is taken from Nicolai Chernyshevski and Lenin’s pamphlet of the same name with the subtitle “Burning Questions of Our Movement.” After the election of Donald Trump and we also have a lot of burning questions.
No matter what, art fairs are exhausting to navigate. We suggest heading first to the Presents sector which is exclusively for galleries less than ten years old. One artist and gallery we want to see more of is James Hoff who is being presented by stellar Callicoon Fine Arts. The other must-see booths are Daniel Faria Gallery from Toronto who will show Shannon Bool and Elizabeth Zvonar, and Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery who presents Pamela Jorden and Ian Pedigo.
In the main gallery section, we will head to Wentrup who will show among others Gregor Hildebrandt a Berlin-based star who meticulously uses obsolete recording material of the pre-digital era like VHS, Cassettes, vinyl to create objects that blur the lines between painting, sculpture, and installation. At Buchmann Galerie, you can see an amazing bronze by the father of contemporary sculpture Tony Cragg a museum-quality piece. KOW’s presentation includes artist Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) who has one of the best current shows in New York at the Sculpture Center. His ongoing project Institute for Human Activities is a complex reflection of contemporary post-colonial exploitation. As curator Jeppe Ugelvig writes he “exploits the workings of ‘globalised’ capitalism and extends its perverse promise of self-improvement and social mobility.”
ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America) whose membership is by invitation only is something like a prestigious National Academy of the Arts for galleries mounts the annual fair The Art Show. Here blue-chip and early blue-chip galleries present mostly solo booths, and it is not surprising that a lot of the galleries here also participate at The Armory Show or Independent. This year for the first time James Fuentes a long time NADA board member has “matured” into this fair, proving that even the youngest and hippest galleries grow-up eventually. He is bringing Noam Rappaport and Tamuna Sirbiladze. We have long admired Rappaport who plunges into painting to explore new forms of abstraction using shaped canvases to a completely new effect.
Perhaps most interesting is the extremely selective and hip Independent New York, which takes place at Spring Studios Tribeca. Jay Gorney who has lived many lives in the art world presents new paintings and sculptures by New York-based artist Anna Betbeze. Mitchell Innes & Nash will present three artists all working in a post-identity-politics dialectic: GCC, Leigh Ledare and (William) Pope L. The latter is the incredibly urgent, important, performance-based artist who directly addresses the broken American race relations – put it this way: we could not love an artist more.
The last fair to mention is the somehow cool and a barely organized mess: SPRING/BREAK Art Show. It is a refuge from any kind of professionalism embracing immature and amateur pranksterism, but we cannot not embrace its non-commercial rebellion. We are looking forward to seeing Black Mirror Pink Reflections: Portraits of Queer Identity, curated by longtime New Museumer Rick Herron featuring the emerging artists Peter Clough + Vincent Tiley.
We want to take Sunday off, but it’s the city that never sleeps. First thing in the morning we will visit the newly rehung Hort Family Collection and see the brand new Yanyan Huang installation room that is just finished. Followed by brunch on the Lower East Side with several galleries which will open early such as 11R, Chapter NY, CRG, Derek Eller, Lyles & King, Simon Preston, Rachel Uffner, and Klaus von Nichtssagend all of whom we will be sure to see.
It is the best day of the week to hit Central Park, and this time think deeply about its political history. The newest commission from the fantastic Public Art Fund is Open House of Los Angeles-based artist Liz Glynn, curated by Daniel S. Palmer. Situated literally on the edge of the great park it references the private ballrooms where the wealthy elite in the early 20th Century would gather as a marker of status. Among the elite were (of course) some of America’s greatest art collectors like the Whitney’s, which gives us another chance for pause considering all the players in the art world.
– Justin Polera