‘Isn’t the Studio Drift commission great?’ says The Armory Show’s new director Benjamin Genocchio, of the gargantuan floating ‘concrete’ block exhibited at PACE Gallery’s booth on preview day. ‘It was a long journey to get that, but I’m so glad it’s here now’. The dramatic piece was created especially for the fair, which runs on Piers 92 & 94 in Manhattan until 5 March. By the end of our tour, exhibitors will have made hundreds and thousands of dollars in opening sales, ‘much better than last year’, Genocchio says. This year’s show is bigger, too, with over 200 of the world’s leading galleries from 30 countries exhibiting.
Genocchio and his team have made a concerted effort to synch Pier 92, which is traditionally dedicated to showcasing modern art, with Pier 94, which usually presents contemporary works. A new layout, devised by Genocchio, relocates and mixes older and contemporary sections. ‘This year, it’s not a question of growth, but change’ Genocchio says: ‘It’s just a different look and feel. We integrated the 20th and 21st century, and now we are going more towards the duality of the exhibits and I think that shows.’
As ever, the Armory is packed with one-offs and exclusives, including a Yayoi Kusama installation presented by Victoria Miro Gallery in the centre of Pier 94, which sold on the first day. Other notable new works include a piece by James Turrell at Kayne Griffin Corcoran’s booth, and portrait of Thelma Golden, director of The Studio Museum in Harlem, by Mike and Doug Starn.
With politics on everyone’s minds, Genocchio was keen to emphasise the fair’s international strengths, looking beyond Europe and the US. ‘Now people in the United States can go to Cuba and people from Cuba can come here, it’s very important to me to have galleries such as Habana Gallery [taking part], and a solo exhibition of work by Havana-based artist Carlos Garaicoa, at the Continua Gallery booth. I want the show to feel broad in its international scope. That’s very important.’
Here’s a round-up of 10 highlights from the show.
Peach with Erotic Inside (2017) Nevine Mahmoud, at M+B Los Angeles
Los Angeles-based Mahmoud’s marble sculpture is the talk of the fair. Shown alongside a series of other hand-carved, small-scale sculptures with titles such as Headless (2017) and Toy Flowers (2017), it has become a favourite with Instagrammers.
Citarella’s photograph imagines the state of the world in 2025 following Donald Trump’s tenure as president of the United States. The artist refers to this imagined future as the epitome of ‘Anarcho-capitalism’.
MadCap (2017), Caroline Achaintre, at Arcade London
Achaintre uses tufted wool to make her large and imposing wall hangings. MadCap is located in the ‘Presents’ section of Armory, which provides a space for emerging galleries less than 10 years old to showcase works by up-and-coming artists.
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery won the inaugural Presents prize of $10,000 for its display of works by German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku. Opoku lives and works in Accra, Ghana, and looks at the relationship between politics and identity. She has shown her art at the recently opened contemporary art space Gallery 1957 in the city (see here for more on Ghana’s growing art scene).
Clement uses her iPhone camera to zoom in on what she describes as ‘the surreal elements of our culture’. Her series of photographs at WENTRUP are derived from her examination of mannequins, which she then turns into avatars by manipulating the images. Clement will have her first solo show at the gallery in Berlin in September.
Women, from contemporary artist Lisa Yuskavage to modernist painter Frances Strain, are on show at Jeffrey Deitch’s recreation of the late feminist artist Florine Stettheimer’s studio. In an art world criticised for its male bias, the installation is a nicely executed statement on the power of women in art.
Sound and performance artist Nick Cave premieres his sculpture duo Hustle Coat at this year’s fair. He is in good company, exhibiting his work alongside first-rate pieces such as Carrie Mae Weems’s pixel print All the Boys (Blocked 1) (2016) and Nina Chanel Abney’s painting Si, Mister (2017).
Ntozabantu VI (Parktown) (2016), Zanele Muholi, at Yancey Richardson Gallery
Muholi’s largely black-and-white photographs explore the state of LGBT rights in South Africa, where gay people are often treated as outsiders.
Photographer and professor of photography in Santiago, Chile, Vicuña looks at everyday urban culture in Chile and other parts of Latin America, as well as Europe, where she lived during the Pinochet regime. She was one of the founding members of the AFI, the first association of professional independent photographers in Chile.
One of the most photographed works in the show, Kusama’s sculpture is placed in the ‘sacred heart’ of Pier 94 – a term used by the fair’s director to describe the new central showspace. Within a few hours of the fair’s opening, the piece had sold for around $1 million.