Armory Week is the art-world equivalent of Fashion Week, Sundance, or South By Southwest. The event, which just wrapped up in New York City, takes its name from the Armory Show art fair, though there are several other independently run art fairs happening at the same time.
These fairs function like trade shows for art galleries. A bunch of galleries from around the globe exhibit under one roof and try to sell their best new works to collectors that might otherwise not see them. They’re annual destination events for art professionals, tote bag enthusiasts, and well-to-do collectors.
Each fair is a little different. I checked out NADA — a non-profit focused on art done by emerging artists and presented by new dealers — and the titular Armory Show, one of the highest-attended art fairs in the world. Here’s what I saw.
I arrived at NADA, which was held in an unassuming building in Manhattan. NADA has been one of my favourite fairs to attend in the past, and it tends to be younger and more cutting-edge. NADA felt a little different this year, as it had a new time, new location, and a new collaborator in Kickstarter.
Super Dakota was one of the first galleries that caught my attention. These pieces by artist Chris Dorland are printed on aluminium and made using broken scanners. As a tech person, I tend to be drawn to tech-heavy art.
Tech art was easy to find. Siebren Versteeg's tech-heavy exhibition featured algorithmically generated paintings based on live CNN data (displayed both on the vertical screen and in a virtual gallery on the other screen).
It also had a rebar sculpture carrying a screen in a tote that displayed visually similar images to whatever it could currently see with its webcam.
Los Angeles gallery Moran Bondaroff showed video and VR work by Jacolby Satterwhite. This booth was packed the entire time I was there.
The Yours Mine & Ours booth was another crowd favourite. It featured a mechanical typing alien by artist Jeremy Couillard. This alien was in a chat room with another alien as part of a concurrent exhibition by him at the gallery's permanent Lower East Side space.
This colourful booth featured work by artists Bill Jenkins and Justin Morin, unconventionally displayed covering each others' work.
Tapestries were big this year. Being less familiar with the art scene in San Francisco, I chatted with gallerist Jonathan Runcio about it. He described the San Francisco art scene as 'still pretty provincial' and told me that Capital represents a lot of artists who aren't from the city.
As one of the fair's Kickstarter projects, the non-profit is building a printmaking studio for a school in Zambia. Sean told me a funny story: The artwork reward for a $US200 donation was very similar to BHQFU works available across town at Armory for $US6,000. An enterprising collector noticed this, and he got his friends to donate for a bunch of them without stopping to hear about what the project was.
Later, I headed to the Armory Show, which was a pretty strong contrast to NADA. It took place in a massive, brightly lit space at Pier 92/94. It has bigger galleries than NADA and even bigger artworks. Armory felt like a bizarre no-holds-barred completion between galleries to grab your attention.
Many of the works were spectacle-based. This sounds like a criticism, but it isn't. I love spectacle.
In the foreground, Yayoi Kusama's massive 'Guidepost to the New World' can't help but command your attention. In the background, Aida Makoto's 'Jumble of 100 Flowers' is definitely the largest painting I've seen on canvas, at almost 60 feet long.
This massive, hovering monolith by Studio Drift was a great example of art for spectacle's sake at Armory. It was a sight to behold. Where else can you see a cement block large enough to hold a car floating effortlessly in the air?
At the Artsy/Microsoft booth I got to try Microsoft's HoloLens, their new augmented reality headset. The piece shown was also by Pace Gallery's Studio Drift, and featured more floating blocks.
This was my first experience with HoloLens, and though it's less immersive than regular VR, I think it has a lot of potential for artists. They gave me a tote bag.
Reflective surfaces and neon text were everywhere. As Instagram becomes more and more of a catalyst for art sales, galleries opportunistically take this into consideration with their programming by showcasing selfie-conducive or otherwise Instagram-likely works.
This concave coloured mirror is by Anish Kapoor. Kapoor is famously disdained by other artists for being the only artist allowed to use the world's blackest material.
Highly Instagrammable light artist James Turrell at Kayne Griffin Corcoran was another crowd favourite.
At the end of the fair, I found a familiar face. Conceptual Photoshopper Josh Citarella showed a massive triptych imagining the artist as the 'freelancer of the future' -- a prepper/creative professional hybrid in his apartment in flooded, dystopian New York.
On the way out, I stumbled on some unique works that were my favourite of either fair. Artist Patrick Jacobs had several nature dioramas viewable through thick, circular windows that gave a sort of fish eye lens effect, totally obfuscating the scale of the scene on the other side.
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