New York’s Armory Show hots up with Middle East and North Africa focus

Red wall with framed artwork
New York’s Ronald Feldman’s Fine Arts turned its entire booth into an installation of Brandon Bellengée’s The Frameworks of Absence, which mourned the loss of over 100 now extinct animal species
(Image credit: TBC)

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.

Framed cut out art work

A closer look at the no extict animal species on show at Ronald Feldman’s Fine Arts installation of Brandon Bellengée’s The Frameworks of Absence

(Image credit: TBC)

Various wooden items covered in stamps

Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Peter Liversidge; Postal Shelf, 2012-2015; Wooden mail objects, shelf

(Image credit: TBC)

Pink painting in an open book

Caroline Nitsch, New York; Anish Kapoor; Fold I, 2014; Colour etchings on two sheets

(Image credit: TBC)

Colourful abstract artwork

Alexander and Bonin Gallery, New York; Mona Hatoum’s Turbulence (black), 2014, made entirely from glass marbles, played with the eye

(Image credit: TBC)

Colour block painting

Claude Lemand Gallery presented paintings by the modernist icon, Dia Al Al-Azzawi, including Blue Bird, 2013.
Copyright: Dia Al-Azzawi. Courtesy Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris

(Image credit: TBC)

Pink room with various artwork

Galerie Thomas Schulte from Berlin put together an installation of all-pink works by artist Michael Müller

(Image credit: TBC)

'Life imitates art' print

Hank Willis Thomas’ text-based installation featuring the truism ‘Art imitates life. Life imitates ads. Ads imitate art.’ was created for Arsty and was emblazoned on totes bags, seen all over the fair.

(Image credit: TBC)

Various prints on a white wall

Galerie Mitterand showed a selection of Richard Pettibone’s miniature works, which appropriate imagery made famous by Andy Warhol

(Image credit: TBC)

Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.