Bringing together 199 galleries from 28 countries around the world is no small feat, but those are the kind of numbers that The Armory Show in New York pulled in this year. Staged as usual alongside the Hudson River at Piers 92 and 94, the 17th edition of the city’s premier modern and contemporary art fair proved that it was far from being long in the tooth with an exciting mix of emerging and established galleries, and a special focus on art from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean (MENAM).
Supported by Art Jameel and Edge of Arabia, institutions that have long supported the arts in the Middle East and North Africa region, Armory Focus: MENAM was comprised of 15 galleries from the area and Europe, showcasing works by artists from Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Syria and more. Curated by Omar Kholeif of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, the exciting selection ranged from paintings and installations to politically charged photography and sculpture.
Kholeif, who was born in Egypt and immigrated to the United States at a young age, was very much motivated to propose a new departure point for art from the region. 'Rather than consider entrenched boundaries of what constitutes the Middle Eastern arts ecology, I took the decision to anchor the [Armory Focus] program around the Mediterranean, suggesting a new artistic cartography that links the art of Southern Europe to Western Asia and North Africa.'
The rest of the fair was filled with just as many treasures. From an eye-catching series of Daniel Buren works at Kamel Mennour’s booth and Galerie Mitterand’s collection of Robert Pettibone works that ironically appropriated iconic Andy Warhol imagery, albeit in miniature scale, to the immersive installation at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts’ booth by artist/ environmentalist Brandon Ballengée in tribute to over 100 now extinct animal species, the variety of creative offerings on display was as inspiring as ever.