Editor's note: In this first of a periodic column about major art fairs around the world, Houston art consultant Lea Weingarten travels to Armory Arts Week in New York and details what caught her eye.
NEW YORK — Each March, the art world makes its annual pilgrimage to Armory Arts Week, headlined by the city’s largest and glitziest fair. Done properly, it brings together the best collectors, dealers, artworks, fashion and networking for a week of champagne and treasure hunts.
This past week was no exception.
Of the 72 leading galleries exhibiting at The Art Show, the most impactful were those curating solo artist representations – and the ladies had the night.
The VIPs were out in force at each of the primary venues — Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA)/The Art Show (the longest running art fair in the United States), the Armory Modern and Armory Contemporary (at Piers 92/94), and Independent (the edgier, über respected newcomer).
Of the 72 leading galleries exhibiting at The Art Show (the ADAA is for American galleries only), the most impactful were those curating solo artist representations – and the ladies had the night.
Amid the treasured Warhols, Calders, and Matisses, vintage works by Lorna Simpson (Salon 94 gallery), Michelle Grabner (James Cohan gallery) and Christina Ramberg (David Nolan gallery) as well as paintings by Etel Adnan (Galerie Lelong gallery) generated massive interest among seasoned fair goers – and sales. Adnan, a Beirut-born Parisian, is the art world’s newly-minted “It” Girl – at the tender age of 90. Her diminutive, exuberant abstracted landscapes were the jewels of dOCUMENTA 2012 and are now included in some of the best international collections.
The “big” Fair (Armory Contemporary and Modern at the Piers) was an unexpectedly slimmed-down, healthier version of its former self, encompassing almost 210,000 square feet of exhibition space and fewer galleries (199) than ever before. Contrary to what you may think, this downsizing was a massive improvement upon past years as the more selective, spacious gallery booths curated by wunderkind director Noah Horowitz emphasized quality, rather than quantity – from blue-chip to mid-level to the younger galleries, and in all price ranges.
Art Fair Favorites
Every year, there are art fair favorites and this year was no exception. Let’s begin on the Contemporary Pier with Glenn Kaino’s “A Shout Within A Storm” made of 149 copper-plated arrows at Honor Fraser Gallery, easily one of the most posted works of the fair and snapped up for $130,000 each in the edition.
Chris Wiley, an emerging artist at young gallery standout Nicelle Beauchene, will have been giddy at the fast-paced sales of his $10,000 unique and editioned photographic works, with the booth nearly selling out in the first couple of hours of the Fair.
Bill Arning, director of CAMH, where Moffett’s retrospective was exhibited in 2011/2012, was seen roaming the Fair with REM’s Michael Stipe and other luminaries. Stipe spent quite a bit of time in Houston’s own Sicardi Gallery booth.
More seasoned Marianne Boesky Gallery was overrun with traffic for William O’Brien’s large-scale, carved ceramics ($18,000 - $55,000) and San Antonio-born Donald Moffet’s extruded paintings ($60,000 - $80,000), which sold out the first evening.
Bill Arning, director of CAMH, where Moffett’s retrospective was exhibited in 2011/2012, was seen roaming the Fair with REM’s Michael Stipe and other luminaries. Stipe spent quite a bit of time in Houston’s own Sicardi Gallery booth, admiring the works of MarcoMaggi and Gabriel de la Mora, with good reason.
The Modern Pier was surprisingly quiet in the first hours of the opening – but no less deserving. The historical ties and obvious influences between modern and contemporary artists make the time travel from one part of the Fair to the other a delightful intellectual exercise.
Anything but, the Zero Group (50’s – 60’s German artists’ group exploring monochrome painting, movement, light) is the current darling of deep-pocketed modern collectors and both Moeller Fine Art and Beck & Eggeling Gallery had impressive offerings by Heinz Mack, Gunther Uecker and Otto Piene, among others — easily in the mid-to-high six figures. The usual stunning array of Calder, Stella, Leger, Nevelson was as good as any museum visit — and one could certainly dream of owning (Pick 5, anyone?).
The Independent Art Fair is the newest addition to Armory Week and screams hip. In its sixth year, it’s quite a different animal – only 50 galleries on four floors of open floor plan in Chelsea with minimal delineations between the fairly small booths. The work ranges from subtle to shocking and often requires quite a bit more study. Most importantly, it comes off as more of an art exhibition than a commercial enterprise.
San Juan, Puerto Rico gallery Galeria Agustina Minoliti featured a submersive installation of vibrant wall paintings by Adriana Minoliti and Paris gallery Praz-Delavallade (who represents Houston art star Dario Robleto, along with Inman Gallery) showed Joe Kyack’s amusing mixed media paintings.
So what was the best of Armory Arts Week? Below are my Top Ten Picks, including selections from each of the fairs I visited, and at all price levels.
ADAA/The Art Show
1. Andy Warhol’s three trial proofs at Susan Sheehan Gallery. Exceedingly rare, these three trial proofs (Jackie I, Jackie II, Jackie III) directly preceded Warhol’s famous Jackie paintings made shortly after JFK’s assassination. The three works have never been shown together and are likely headed to a very prominent NYC museum – need I say more?
4. Terry Winters’ stunningly affordable ($6,000!) prints at Two Palms.
6. Daniel Buren’s iconic mini-retrospective at Parisian gallery kamel mennour was big, bold and stripey.
7. Mona Hatoum’s “Turbulence (black)” made of thousands of multiple-sized black glass marbles in the Armory’s special “Focus” area — this year on the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean (courtesy of Alexander and Bonin Gallery).
8. Delightfully-intricate and playful miniature paintings by Manjunath Kamath at New Delhi’s Gallery Espace.
9. Gerhard Hoehme (1920 – 1989) was a hugely influential leader of the Dusseldorf artists, in particular Sigmar Polke. (Beck & Eggerling)
10. Andrea Büttner’s (David Kordansky) works on paper and reverse painted glass works are incredibly strong. One of the newest additions to the gallery, this artist has already had solo shows at Tate Britain and Museum Ludwig, and is planning for her solo this Fall at the highly-respected Walker in Minneapolis. Stay tuned on this talent.
Next Stop: SP Arte Brazil
Lea Weingarten, founder of the Weingarten Art Group, serves on the boards of numerous arts organizations, including Glassell School Core Committee, the Menil Society Steering Committee for the Menil Collection and the Civic Arts Committee for the Houston Arts Alliance. Weingarten Art Group is the project manager and advisor to Hermann Park Conservancy, Discovery Green and Houston Downtown Management District.