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Art Market

Around the galleries – the Armory Show is still a force to be reckoned with

3 July 2023

From the July/August 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.

The Armory Show

‘We’re a larger fair than most others now,’ Nicole Berry says – and it’s true that the Armory Show, of which Berry has been director since 2017, is bucking the recent trend for scaling down. More than 225 galleries from 35 countries are taking part in this year’s edition (8–10 September) – more than the post-pandemic iterations of TEFAF New York and Frieze New York put together. Perhaps this is partly thanks to good fortune; due to its early autumn slot, ‘we were probably the only international fair that didn’t have to cancel an edition [during the pandemic],’ Berry points out. But it’s also part and parcel of Berry’s ambition to maintain and strengthen the ‘deep roots’ that the fair has in New York.

The Armory Show of 1913 famously gave many New Yorkers their first exposure to international modernism, when works by Duchamp, Matisse, Picasso and many others were exhibited at the 69th Regiment Armory building on Lexington Avenue. When the Gramercy International Art Fair, founded in 1994, moved to this same building, it took on the name of this illustrious predecessor. In 2021, the fair moved to the Javits Center on 11th Avenue, but it kept the Armory name – a reflection of the fact that its guiding ambition remains to bring the best of international contemporary art to New York.

Of course, New Yorkers can see more cutting-edge international art than they could in 1913. An important part of the fair’s remit, Berry says, is to make sure that its visitors can ‘take advantage of what else is going on the city’. To this end, it has partnered both with arts institutions and with events that coincide with the fair, such as the US Open; the Armory Show’s Off-Site programme presents tennis fans with a series of large-scale sculptures. Meanwhile, the Armory Spotlight programme gives a complimentary fair booth to one of the city’s non-profit cultural institutions.

The fair has brought on three external curators this year – Candice Hopkins of Forge Project, Eva Respini, who stepped down as chief curator of the ICA Boston in May, and Adrienne Edwards of the Whitney. Together, the curators will explore how historical narratives govern our appreciation of the present moment. Hopkins’ Focus section brings Indigenous artists to the fore, while Respini’s Platform includes site-specific works by ten artists including Hank Willis Thomas (Ben Brown Fine Arts), Shahzia Sikander (Sean Kelly) and Xu Zhen (James Cohan); Edwards will chair the Curatorial Leadership Summit.

For Berry, what excites her most about the fair is the chance ‘to learn about artists that I might not have known about otherwise’; she points to the Indigenous CHamoru artist Gisela McDaniel, whose lush oil portraits will appear in Pilar Corrias’s booth. ‘There are going to be a lot of introductions to artists doing work that is absolutely relevant to our culture today,’ Berry says.

The Armory Show is at the Javits Center, New York, from 8–10 September.

Men Tree, 2021, Souad Abdelrasoul, acrylic on canvas, 187 × 185cm. Addis Fine Art, London

Gallery highlights

Eastern Voices: Contemporary Artists from East Africa
Until 22 July
Addis Fine Art, London

A collaboration between Addis Fine Art, Afriart Gallery in Kampala and Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi, this show brings together work by 19 artists from six East African countries to offer an overview of contemporary art in the region. Pictured is a painting by the Cairo-based artist Souad Abdelrasoul, whose work explores connections between the human body and the natural world.

Angel Otero: The Sea Remembers
Until 29 July
Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong

The Puerto Rican painter deftly combines de Kooning-like gestural abstraction with the influence of the Spanish baroque in canvases that extol the wonders of everyday life. This exhibition of 10 new works takes its name from a painting of an upright piano in the artist’s studio, surrounded by objects from his childhood home and with water lapping at its base; beneath the waves are Puerto Rican decorative tiles based on 16th-century Spanish designs.

Until 29 July
Thaddaeus Ropac, London

The marriage of mysticism with science that was promised by the alchemist’s art has continued to fascinate us long after the practice itself was rendered obsolete. This exhibition considers how post-war artists, from Joseph Beuys to Anselm Kiefer, have thought of their work in alchemical terms. Highlights include Andy Warhol’s five-metre-long Piss Painting (1977) and the printmaking experiments of Robert Rauschenberg.

Clive & Jane Wainwright Collection
Until 14 July
H. Blairman & Sons, London

Clive Wainwright, a leading historian of Victorian interiors and furniture, died in 1999; now that his wife, Jane, has donated her house to the Landmark Trust, a selection of highlights from the collection are up for sale in this display. Among them are a drawing table used by A.W.N. Pugin and an ivory table designed by John Soane. The exhibition is one of 51 displays across the capital that make up London Art Week (30 June–7 July).

Fairs in focus

Bamberg Art and Antiques Fair
24 July–24 August
Various venues, Bamberg

The Bavarian town of Bamberg is hosting the 28th edition of its summer fair, which has more the air of a festival – allowing collectors and art lovers to wander the ancient streets and stop in at the town’s impressive galleries and auction houses, offering works of art from the 15th century to the present. Don’t miss the exquisite medieval woodcarvings at Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel, or the furniture at Kunsthandel Schmidt-Felderhoff.

Knokke Art Fair
5–15 August
Grand Casino Knokke

The small seaside resort of Knokke is home to the biggest casino in Belgium – an imposing art deco structure, built by Léon Stynen in the late 1920s and now home to major murals by Keith Haring, René Magritte and Paul Delvaux. It’s a fitting home for this annual event, which brings together a wide range of art and antiques from around 45 Belgian and international dealers. The undoubted highlight this year is an installation by Yayoi Kusama.

From the July/August 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.