The Armory Show opened to the public yesterday at Pier 92 & 94 in New York. On view through March 5, the fair features 210 international galleries, with over 70 presenting solo- or dual-artist projects.
This year, the floor-plan felt a bit more relaxed, designed by Bade Stageberg Cox. There is ample seating and lounge spaces (provided by luxury furniture brand Roche Bobois), and the refreshments and food offerings were definitely better than fairs past with services from Colonia Verde, By Chloe., Juice Press, Black Seed Bagels, Il Buco, and more.
The booth grid of both piers was broken up by the inaugural Platform exhibition, curated by Eric Shiner. There was Patricia Cronin’s immersive Tack Room, Yayoi Kusama sculptures dotting a patch of bright green AstroTurf (a flooring choice we saw echoed in Victoria Miro’s booth), Sebastian Errazuriz’s suspended piano hanging precariously above the Pommery Champagne lounge, Douglas Coupland’s playful towers made from Legos, and we even partook in Fiete Stolte’s photo booth which captured our eye with our silhouette outlined in the pupil.
There are some surprising large-scale installations within a few booths, like Studio Drift’s monolithic rotating Drifter (2017) at Pace Gallery, which looks like a solid rectangular block of concrete. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts presents a partially enclosed booth full of colorful panel paintings in graphic black, red, orange, green, black, and white by Rico Gatson. But it was Jeffrey Deitch who really wows with his “The Florine Stettheimer Collapsed Time Salon.” A new spin on his 1995 presentation at the fair’s predecessor, the booth’s iridescent cellophane curtains welcome visitors into a bright pink salon with antiques for seating and works by artist like Cecily Brown, Laura Owens, Chloe Wise, John Currin, Walter Robinson, Jane Kaplowitz, and more.
Some mixed media, large-scale, 3D works, like by Ben Gocker at PPOW and Aiko Hachisuka at 11R jumped out at us. And Isaac Julien’s gorgeous “Looking for Langston Vintage Series” (1989/2016) in black and white at Jessica Silverman Gallery paired strangely well with Woody Othello’s oversized ceramics of household objects on hand-made pedestals. Sanford Biggers had several powerful new works, like Undertow (2017) at Marianne Boesky Gallery, too.
Overall, though, we found ourselves drawn to lots of paintings—many of them fresh from the studio dating either 2017 or 2016. Yinka Shonibare’s African Ballet (2017) at James Cohan was a painting that mixed prints in fabric and newspaper (his new show is also currently at the gallery in New York). We got lost in the wash of pinks and purples in Jules de Balincourt’s Moving Mountains, Moving Tribes (2016) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. While admiring Whitney Bedford’s Two Parties (2017) at Susanne Vielmetter, we overheard the gallerist tell a few interested collectors that she was so impressed with the new work she rearranged the booth around it.
Nina Chanel Abney’s Si, Mister (2017) popped with power on the outer wall of Jack Shainman Gallery. We fell in love Keith Mayerson’s dreamy American landscapes at Marlborough Contemporary. And Rosson Crow’s cactus-filled Apocalypse Culture (View From the Bunker) (2016) at Honor Fraser was a bright spot.
We ended our tour of the fair with a surprise find—an early rare work by Alice Neel in the back room of Victoria Miro across from work by Hernan Bas, Peter Doig, and de Balincourt. The painting, Nazis Murder Jews (1936), is one of her WPA works. It was prophetic at the time, and felt darkly relevant this year.