A Walk Through The Art: The Armory Show 2017
“Being There” might as well be a must for any ambitious gallery of international scope. It is the Armory Show 2017 – the 23rd edition of New York’s most important contemporary art fair.
This year, 200+ galleries showcase their proposals, as usual, divided into sections. A division is based on the time span the galleries cover in the history of art: the “Insights” section, for instance, is dedicated only to 20th-century art. The “Presents” section, instead, focuses on young galleries no more than ten years old, showcasing recent work from emerging artists. The “Focus” section this year is dedicated to the theme What Is To Be Done?, curated by Jarrett Gregory.
The novelty of the Armory Show 2017 is the introduction of a “Platform” section, that highlights performance, installation and site-specific work. The selection of 14 artists, titled An Incident, was curated by Eric Shiner, who “began to think of ways I might break the, by now all-too-familiar, monotony of the art fair experience – and create moments, spaces and actions that might surprise, delight or challenge both viewers and exhibitiors alike.” Shiner’s operation is the most successful inside the art fair, and indeed succeeds in its aim, creating a refreshing laceration in the art-fair experience. Worth noting is Sebastian Errazuriz’s intervention, a vertical piano suspended with wires over the heads of art-fair goers intent on sipping some “well-deserved” treat at the champagne bar. It appears that artists would like nothing more than to see their phony buyers – and the whole art market with them – crashed to a pancake, even though their mere presence at this kind of event testifies to the opposite. And the irony is served.
Among the main Armory Show 2017 attractions, Pace gallery’s booth features Drifter (2017) by Studio Drift. Right at the entrance to the section dedicated solely to contemporary art galleries, it immediately steals visitors’ attention: a gigantic moving block of cement – a very primary element but also an enigmatic, larger-than-life reference to an inscrutable future.
Size matters, as always. We need space, we need involvement to be able to feel something, particularly inside a chaotic environment such as an art fair, to which especially professionals have become jaded and indifferent.
The surprises offered by the Platform section, and the big scale of their selected artwork, therefore works well in this environment, from the psychedelic field of bowling pins by Yayoi Kusama (Guidepost to the New World, 2016) to Ai Weiwei‘s beautifully crafted sculpture, lighter than air with its structure made of sticks, that finds an echo at the booth of his representing gallery, Galerie Forsblom, in his other “floating” sculpture, this time made primarily of rice paper.
Another size-relevant artwork is the wall piece presented in solo by Mizuma Art Gallery: Jumble of 100 Flowers by Aida Makoto measures 200 × 1750 cm (or 80 x 690 inches) and works very well with its location, installed along the art fair’s “Town Square” where Yayoi Kusama’s acid environment is the main protagonist.
Another star of the Armory Show 2017 is Joshua Citarella at Carroll/Fletcher, with his new 3-panel wall piece, depicting a future depleted of resources. Through a successful mix of photography and drawing, we find the artist modestly inhabiting a tiny living space, organized to sustain life in unfavorable conditions, which are evoked by the city landscape that we see through the window. At a first glance, I thought it was meant to depict the life of an artist in New York today. I guess that wouldn’t be the case of Citarella specifically, but nevertheless, his case is on point.
The Armory Show 2017 is at Piers 92 & 94, New York through March 5.