Last weekend during the New York art fairs, the OWS-affiliated Occupy Museums group reminded attendees of the 2012 Armory Show that having a big bank account wasn’t the only way to enjoy or obtain the artwork of others.
After celebrating ten years of contemporary art fairs nationally and abroad, Scope New York has decided to make the move uptown to mingle with the big boys. The fair is enclosed in an enormous white tent on 57th Street at Twelfth Avenue and provides a much-needed respite from the hysteria of the Armory Show. Fifty-seven galleries are represented, approximately half of which are based in New York. The Middle East appears to be the one region noticeably absent from the international pool, but strong entries from Santo Domingo and South Korea show that this fair is still digging deep into underrepresented terrain.
If artists knew how to take breaks, they’d probably find different professions. True to their people, art-party company The They Co. has put together an ambitious “break” from the commercial art madness of Armory Week — a colossal, curator-driven, thematic art exhibition on three floors of an old school in Nolita. Spring/Break’s 23 curators, both independent and gallery-affiliated, from boroughs near and far, present a dynamic, thoughtful response to the inaugural show’s theme, “Apocalist: A Brief History of the End.”
After attending both the Moving Image Fair at the Waterfront Tunnel and the Independent in the old Dia:Chelsea building, I realized that art fairs and the art contained within them are suffering from the same problem as many recent exhibitions in major museums: It’s nearly impossible to appreciate the art by itself without a detailed explanation of the artist’s background and motivations.
Big art events in New York are often set up in opposition to the “establishment.” In reaction to the Whitney Biennial, there is now the New Museum Triennial and the BHQF Brucennial. The Dependent responds to the Independent. In this sense, I would compare Volta to the Armory — they are sister fairs who share VIP access cards and shuttle vans. Sort of the Lower East Side versus Chelsea. Note, the Armory was the first hotel art fair in the 1990s and, at the time, the upstart, up against the big bad and very establishment ADAA — how times have changed — is Volta an attempt to return to that kind of authenticity?
I was reminded yesterday afternoon, while walking through mazes of pop-up galleries, tent-like hallways, magazine stands and oddly placed sculptures just asking to be tripped over, that the contemporary wing of the Armory Show — which runs through Sunday at Piers 92 and 94 — means different things to different people.
You’re supposed to complain about the art fairs … just like you’re supposed to complain about the Whitney Biennial. IN fact, it is a general art world rule that you should complain about anything you find worthy of revisiting year after year. And then you should always threaten never to go again.
This week, we’ve compiled an easy to use 2012 New York art fair reference guide. They’re all here with limited commentary but we’ve graded them out of a possible five stars based on past experiences at the fairs and buzz.
In the Armory Modern section of this year’s Armory Art Fair, a work by Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz has taken the typography of wording of Occupy Wall Street signs and printed them as black lettering onto pristine white folding chairs. The effect was immediately disturbing but the artist’s explanation is more complex and intriguing.