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The Armory Show rings in the fall art season in New York this week. Open from September 9-11 at the Javits Center, the fair brings together the world’s top galleries, celebrating a diverse range of modern and contemporary artists. A New York cultural institution since 1994, the 2022 edition features breakthrough Focus and Platform sections, and the fifth annual Curatorial Leadership Summit. In addition to an expanded Presents section of emerging galleries, Nicole Berry, executive director of the Armory Show, ushers in bold new initiatives such as an inaugural partnership of Armory Off-Site at the US Open, as well as the unprecedented Armory Spotlight, advocating for New York’s remarkable cultural organizations.
Whitewall had the opportunity to speak with Berry about forging an extraordinary path through challenging times, creating a platform for renewed historical narratives, and molding an equitable arts ecosystem.
WHITEWALL: As Executive Director of New York’s Armory Show since 2017, you, along with your hard-working team, have faced unprecedented challenges the last few years throughout the ongoing pandemic. How did it feel to prepare for this year’s show?
NICOLE BERRY: After navigating the pandemic and a major relocation to our new home at the Javits Center, it has been incredibly satisfying to work on this year’s Armory Show, perhaps the most ambitious edition to date. This year we have fully settled into our new state-of-the-art venue and will welcome over 240 galleries from around the world. We are also fortunate to be working with three incredibly talented curators, Carla Acevedo-Yates, Mari Carmen Ramirez, and Tobias Ostrander, who have brought unique perspectives to this year’s fair.
As we get closer to our opening, I can’t help but anticipate the energy and excitement surrounding our event, as well as other world class New York events like the US Open and New York Fashion Week which are happening concurrently. With so much activity around the city this year, we have expanded our outdoor art program to substantially increase our cultural reach. We hope to capture the spirit of the city, the sense of discovery and opportunity that people come to New York for, both within the walls of the fair as well as throughout the city.
WW: Acevedo-Yates will curate the Focus section of the fair, dedicated to artist exhibitions that explore issues surrounding personal and political climates as they interact with race and gender. Can you tell us about some of the highlights from this section?
NB: Our Focus section will present a wide range of works—including sculptures, paintings, photographs, textiles, drawings, and video installations—by global artists addressing in various ways issues around both the natural and built environment. For example, Sean Kelly will present Hugo McCloud’s hauntingly beautiful paintings made of single use plastics. kó, an exciting new gallery from Lagos, will show pieces by Ozioma Onuzulike and Nnenna Okore, two Nigerian artists who call attention to socio-political and environmental issues. Embajada and Galería CURRO will present new works by Claudia Peña Salinas that address the devastating impact of tourism, among other issues. I am looking forward to seeing Carla’s expert vision come to life.
WW: Curated by Ostrander, the Platform section will be dedicated to large-scale installation and site-specific works under the theme of Monumental Change. What is in store for viewers in terms of artworks that question the subjects and people that we as a collective will now begin to commemorate?
NB: For the 2022 edition of our Platform section, Tobias Ostrander has lent his remarkable curatorial eye to gather 12 recent and newly commissioned large-scale sculptures at the fair by artists from a wide range of backgrounds including Reynier Leyva Novo, Ebony G. Patterson, and Trenton Doyle Hancock. When viewed collectively they ask the question, “What subjects might we collectively look to venerate now?” Individually, the works reference specific monuments like Cuban heroes, Caribbean landscapes, and fast-food chains and entertainment centers. Fundamentally, they all question the idea of what monuments are and who they are made for—directing critical attention to the ways sculptural forms shape historical narratives.
WW: With Ramírez as chair of the fifth annual Curatorial Leadership Summit, examining the differences and similarities between Latin American and Latinx art, what are your hopes for the programs, conversations, and outcomes of the symposium?
NB: As one of the first curators to advance the status of Latin American and Latinx artists in the U.S. museum world, I am thrilled Mari Carmen will give her insight into common misconceptions amongst museum professionals about Latin American and Latinx artists, among other topics, to ignite meaningful discussion that can make a positive, long-standing impact on these artists and their markets. The mission of our Curatorial Leadership Summit is to give curators a chance to meet, exchange perspectives, and have open, honest conversations about pressing topics in their field. We recognize the remarkable impact curators and institutions have on the art market. With discussions like the ones Mari Carmen has organized for September, we hope to inspire changes that move us towards a more equitable art world.
WW: This year’s show will feature over 240 galleries from more than 30 countries. You have expanded the Presents section to 40 exhibitors. Can you speak about the importance of supporting the next generation of gallerists and artists?
NB: Looking back at our roots, The Armory Show was celebrated for being a place where you could encounter experimental, thought-provoking art that you couldn’t easily find elsewhere. It was the launch pad for many galleries’ and artists’ careers. We intend to uphold and build upon that tradition of providing emerging talent with a prominent platform. Introducing younger galleries and artists’ work to a larger audience inspires the next generation of artists, curators, and collectors, and ensures the arts ecosystem thrives for decades to come. We aim to bring a sense of discovery to the fair, offering something for seasoned collectors but also those who may be buying their first piece. This year, our Presents section will showcase a wide range of international galleries, hailing from places like Ukraine and Iran, to present some of the most cutting-edge artists of our time.
WW: The Armory Show is partnering this year with the United States Tennis Association to present large-scale outdoor sculptures at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the US Open (August 23-September 11). How was this special group of artists—Gerald Chukwuma, Jose Dávila, Luzene Hill, Myles Nurse, and Carolyn Salas—chosen for the initiative?
NB: As both The Armory Show and the USTA strive for a world that’s inspired, creative, and equal, it made sense for us to work on a project that brings the tennis and art world together. Building upon the USTA’s ‘Be Open’ campaign which celebrates inclusivity and our own Armory Off-Site program that places large scale artworks by artists represented by exhibitors at the fair in New York’s public spaces we created a new initiative, Armory Off-Site at the US Open. The opportunity to present sculptures by artists who come from underrepresented backgrounds at one of the country’s most famous and well attended sporting events seemed to be the perfect fit. We are proud to have selected artists representing a diverse range of ages, countries, and social perspectives. This program introduces these artists’ works and the messages they convey to a different, much larger audience. During Fan Week, when I had the honor of speaking with Myles Nurse and Luzene Hill on the US Open’s main stage, I could see how many fans were enthusiastically interacting with their sculptures. And to know that for some of these artists, this is the first public work they have ever created, what a tremendous experience for us all!
WW: You have also announced Armory Spotlight, the first program in the fair’s history to provide a complimentary booth to a leading New York cultural institution. This year you are honoring The Kitchen, one of the city’s oldest not-for-profit art and performance spaces. Can you speak about this exciting inaugural program and this year’s partnership?
NB: As New York’s art fair, it’s imperative for us to forge deep, meaningful connections with our neighboring cultural institutions. Much like the Gramercy International Prize which awards a free booth to a young gallery showcasing emerging artists, we wanted to offer a complimentary booth to a selected cultural partner who has had tremendous impact not only in the New York art community but in the larger international art community as well. We hope that this will introduce a broad audience to a different New York cultural organization and their programming each year. We were thrilled when The Kitchen decided to join our new initiative in its inaugural year. The Kitchen is one of New York’s oldest nonprofits and closely aligns with The Armory Show’s mission of championing innovative, experimental artists–they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, so it felt serendipitous to collaborate with them at the fair.