New York City is in the throes of art fever this week with the opening of not one but five fairs in the metropolis – the most notable of which is the Armory Show, overlooking the Hudson River at Piers 92/94. In its modern form the art fair has been operating since 1999, though this year it celebrates the centennial of its namesake, the original Armory show of 1913, known for having introduced the work of avant-garde Europeans like Marcel Duchamp to American shores.
It’s with that same pioneering spirit that this year’s fair is pulling out all the stops. Organisers tapped Brooklyn practice Bade Stageberg Cox to design the interior grid landscape, along with a series of experimental plywood-furniture projects in the lounge areas. BSC’s palette of silvers and greys provides the backdrop to Armory 2013’s diverse roster of international galleries, which namecheck not only the heavy-hitters but a bevy of first-timers, too. Also in house are two specially curated settings: a section devoted to one-man shows and a second, called Armory Focus, that groups together galleries geographically.
In the latter, Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner highlights contemporary efforts from 17 established and emerging galleries from the US. The eclectic selection is living proof of the cultural diversity of American artists, set against a wider, international backdrop.
The Armory took another risk with its choice for commissioned artist of the year, Liz Magic Laser. The New York-based performance artist designed the fair’s visual identity along with several limited-edition artworks. In her characteristically satirical way, she conducted her own market research, leading a series of focus groups to discover how fair-goers would like to see her shape the show.
The upshot is complete transparency, from finances to visitor numbers to the cost of renting a booth. Throughout the fair, attendees can spot these facts and figures emblazoned on staff uniforms and tote bags. Card-carrying VIPs learn, for instance, that they are recipient 1 out of 12,365 VIP guests.
With 214 galleries represented, this year’s showcase is intentionally smaller than usual, with all efforts being put towards strengthening the offering. Undeniably, though, its dynamism has secured its status as the pinnacle of New York’s art scene.