Photo Essays

Armory Show 2014: Getting Better After Lackluster Years Past

by Hrag Vartanian on March 8, 2014

Cajsa von Zeipel, "HOLES IN THE WALL - flat shoe portal" (2014), styrofoam, aqua resin, fiberglass, plaster, at Andréhn-Schiptjenko gallery (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Cajsa von Zeipel, “HOLES IN THE WALL – flat shoe portal” (2014), styrofoam, aqua resin, fiberglass, plaster, at Andréhn-Schiptjenko gallery (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

This year’s Armory Show may have stopped the bleeding for an art fair that has suffered from years of lackluster energy and a major blow delivered by the Frieze New York art fair, which began two years ago on a bucolic urban island and in the far warmer month of May. But no one should count out the passion New York’s art world has for art souks, a place where collectors, art tourists, and dealers easily mingle and make deals.

A woman in the middle of mirror works by Michelangelo Pistoletto at Galleria Repetto in the Armory Modern section of the Armory Show. (click to enlarge)

A woman in the middle of a booth of mirror works by Michelangelo Pistoletto at Galleria Repetto in the Armory Modern section of the Armory Show (click to enlarge)

I’ve already discussed the welcome China focus for this year’s Armory, but the fair itself might be the most interesting in years for contemporary art fans. That’s not to say there aren’t a number of problems, including the Armory Modern section, which felt subdued and predictable, and the associated Venus Drawn Out exhibition of female artists, which resembled the visual equivalent of salon-style wallpaper for a sitting area.

Armory uses the same ratio that most art fairs stick to, with a preponderance of painting (collectors love painting), flashy sculptures, and witty juxtapositions that grab your attention from across the room.

A display of works by at Athr Gallery of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (photo by Tiernan Morgan for Hyperallergic)

A display of works by Ahmed Mater and Nasser Al Salem at Athr Gallery of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (photo by Tiernan Morgan for Hyperallergic)

There was a healthy selection of global galleries from every continent, and for the first time a gallery from Saudi Arabia, Athr Gallery from Jeddah, joined the fair, with a display by artists Ahmed Mater and Nasser Al Salem. I asked longtime Hyperallergic friend and Athr gallery representative Adnan Manjal why the gallery, which has also been exhibiting in Berlin and other European fairs, chose to come to Armory. “The Armory is one of the most important art fairs in the world,” he explained. “We believe our artists’ work and concepts will bring a new and fresh perspective to the audience in the US and those who attend the fair regularly. The art scene in Saudi Arabia is quite interesting, regionally and globally, whether the artists tackle social and political issues such as Ahmed Mater or spiritual matters such as contemporary calligrapher Nasser Al Salem.”

Manjal’s point is worth noting, because even in a city like New York, where there is art around every corner, you still encounter good surprises in a number of booths by artists you’ve never heard of at a place like the Armory — it’s a nice treat when it happens, though I wish it would happen more.

If there was one work that captured the spirit of the art fair better than others, it would have to be Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s “The Wedding Cake” (2008), at London’s Blain Southern gallery. Busting open Renato Bertelli’s 1933 Futurist masterpiece “Head of Mussolini (Continuous Profile),” Noble and Webster have filled the bust of the Italian dictator with a bouquet of penises. Mussolini is a dickhead, which seems obvious, but what’s more fascinating is that at an art fair there’s always going to be someone who wants to buy something like this and put it in their home (or at least in storage) — that really is more spellbinding than the object itself.

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Tim Noble and Sue Webster, “The Wedding Cake” (2008), white crystacal plaster, at Blain Southern gallery

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Jack Pierson’s “The Eternal Questions” (2013), wood, metal, plastic, on the right, on the right with Tom Sachs’s “Untitled (United States)” (2014), painted plywood, on the left at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

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Paul Ramírez Jonas, “Ventriloquist V” (2013), cork, push pins, notes contributed by the public, at Koenig & Clinton gallery

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Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Senza Titolo 58″ (1976), on the left, with Kendell Geers’s “Losing My Religion 24″ (2007–13) at Galleria Continua

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Tallur L.N., “Obituary Note” (2013) at Jack Shainman Gallery

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Robert Polidori, “Enfilade, Salle les princes royales, (86) ANR.02.004, Salles du XVII, Alle du Nord – 1er Etage” (2010), Kodak Endura print mounted to Dibond, at Edwynn Houk Gallery

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Atul Dodiya, “Shakuntala” (2013), exterior: enamel paint, brass letters on morotized metal roller shutter with iron hooks, interior: oil on canvas, at Vadehra Art Gallery

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Detail of Chris Martin’s “Cherry Pie” (2013) at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen

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People in front of Maximilian Toth’s “White Wash” (2012), graphite, grease pencil, spray paint, oil on canvas, at Fredericks & Freiser gallery

Sculpture by Rael Yassin at Kalfayan Galleries in Athens

Detail of a sculpture by Rael Yassin at Kalfayan Galleries in Athens

Detail of Dawn Clements's "2 Tables in My Kitchen" (2014), ballpoint pen ink on paper, at Pierogi gallery

Detail of Dawn Clements’s “2 Tables in My Kitchen” (2014), ballpoint pen ink on paper, at Pierogi gallery

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Detail of a work by José Parlá at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

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Vicky Wright’s “Torment of the Metals IX” (2014), oil on wooden panel, with Yana Naidenov’s “How a stone learns to fly (II)” (2013), rammed paper pulp, polystyrene, wood, at Josh Lilley gallery

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Works by Ron Gorchov, HC Berg, and Peter Halley at Galerie Forsblom from Helsinki

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Ceramic sculptures by Jeffrey Mitchell and paintings by Grant Bernhart at Ambach & Rice gallery

Andrew Ohanesian's "" (2014) with Jim Torok's paintings of Chuck Close and Fred Tomaselli (both 2014) in the background, at Pierogi Gallery

Andrew Ohanesian’s “Oceans” (2013), San Jamar Tear-N-Dry Hands Free Paper Towel Dispenser, Natural Kraft Brown Roll Towel, with Jim Torok’s paintings of Chuck Close and Fred Tomaselli (both 2014) in the background, at Pierogi Gallery

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Works from Romuald Hazoumé’s “Chantou” series (2013) at London’s October Gallery

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Muntean/Rosenblum’s “Untitled (To fill empty…)” (2014), acrylics on canvas, flanked by two sculptures (ceramics, paint, drywall) sculptures by Cristian Andersen

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A work by Abigail Deville from her “Invisible Women” series at Michel Rein gallery

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Scott Treleaven’s “Fountain 2″ (2014) at Invisible Exports gallery

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Moriko Mori’s “Renew II” (2013), fiberglass, hovering above Frank Thiel’s “Perito Moreno #17″ (2012/13), framed chromogenic print face mounted to Plexiglas, at Sean Kelly gallery

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People in front of David Wojnarowicz’s “Untitled (Man with Rifle)” (1983), acrylic on canvas, at PPOW gallery

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Detail of Do Ho Suh, “Specimen Series: Berlin Apartment Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany” (2011), polyester fabric, 14 pieces, at Lehmann Maupin gallery

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William Powhida’s first stand alone sculpture, ” ” (2014) at Postmasters Gallery

The 2014 Armory Art Fair (Twelfth Avenue at 55th Street, Westside, Manhattan) continues through March 9, 12–7pm.

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