NYC piers, hotels and exhibition halls galore fill up with artwork and art folks around the second week of March every year for Armory Week, which includes the eponymous fair as well as a number of others, such as Fountain, Scope, Volta and The Independent. Because a range of viewpoints on such huge events is likely better than one, we’ve asked a well-informed group for their opinions and recommendations. And because the Armory Show celebrates its much-touted centenary this year, we also asked the group what might make a fitting birthday gift for the grand old codger.
Terri Ciccone, ArtInfo
I like a healthy mix when I go to the fairs, but I do prefer the shows that take more risks like Fountain and Scope. This year I'm hoping to find a new gallery or artist to follow, and as for a gift, I’d offer a series of "The Best of the Armory" in gifs!
Katarína Hybenová, Bushwick Daily
I prefer a combination of fancy and DIY; it gives me a good idea of what is out there. I am likely to attend both Armory and Fountain. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of foreign galleries too. It's like traveling and exploring but using just the subway! For a gift, I’d give indoor fireworks in the shape of the most influential artworks for each decade of The Armory’s existence. Do I want too much?
Marco Antonini, NurtureArt
I like fairs. I like them for what they are—a quick glance at a lot of work from all over the world. The more they try to intellectualize the format, the more they reveal its limits. I like The Armory, NADA, The Independent, Volta, Moving Image and SPRING/BREAK (for which I have curated an installation of photographic bricolage by artist Luigi Presicce). Fairs are also great for catching up with my artist and gallerist/curator friends from other parts of the world. Also, NurtureArt has an off-site exhibition during the Armory this year, at TEMP Space, and the 56 Bogart galleries in Bushwick will be open the night of March 9th. The Armory should give ITSELF a giant birthday gift: a better venue and a better-curated program.
Stephen Truax, artist and curator
I go to the Armory. You kind of have to go. But I spend most of my time at The Independent. They blow the other fairs out of the water. I love going to Volta, its partner fair, because it's more intimate, and The Moving Image, with such an innovative platform, is now essential to see. I usually go to Pulse for a quick run-through as well. This year, I love that CLEARING (Brooklyn/Brussels) got in. They’re young and their program is great, and I can't wait to see what they show. Crown Point Press in San Francisco makes incredible prints for top artists, and it's awesome they're showing as a unique space. Galleria Continua and Ronald Feldman are always among my favorite galleries. Regarding the gift, I’d like to see an artist address the history of the fair and its transformation over the years. It is absolutely not the same institution that accepted Duchamp's Fountain in 1917, but it's really interesting that The Armory Show is billing itself this way. I'd love to see a really clear analysis or historical view of how the show has changed: artistically, physically, economically, everything.
Benjamin Sutton, ArtInfo
I dread the Armory Show, because it's one of the most unpleasant situations imaginable in which to look at art—or for that matter, to spend a day. I didn't go last year, which made my Armory Week much more pleasant, but I think I'll attend this year because the centennial programming sounds really good, and because the always interesting and thought-provoking Liz Magic Laser is the fair's artist-in-residence of sorts. Smaller fairs like the Independent, the Moving Image and, as of last year, SPRING/BREAK, have provided the most rewarding Armory Week experiences for me. Another favorite is the one-day hotel fair The Dependent, which took over a few floors of a hotel on the Lower East Side last year. The Armory Show’s "Focus" section—which will be devoted to American artists in honor of the landmark 1913 Armory Show—is going to have some terrific work, including projects by Duke Riley and assume vivid astro focus. There are also shows at the Met, MoMA, and the New York Historical society about the 1913 exhibition that I would like to see, though probably after the Armory Week madness. The gift I’d give? 100 nudes descending 100 staircases. (That sounds like an Escher print.)
Charles Kessler, Left Bank Art Blog
I go to the small fairs, I've given up on the big ones. There is something disgusting about them. The art, even good art, looks like junk in that environment. The last time I went to the Armory Show, it felt like it was all about money. I couldn't talk to the dealers because they were too distracted, and I felt herded like cattle—and that was with a VIP ticket. So I love the small fairs like the Dependent last year and the original one in the Gramercy Hotel. They may be crowded, but people seem to care about art, and they're having a good time. For its big birthday, I’d give the big fair one of those new waterless urinals.
James Panero, The New Criterion
To set the record straight: The 1913 Armory Show was the Declaration of Independence of art. The most important art exhibition in US history was created and organized entirely by artists and introduced European modernism to America. Today the big art fairs of "Armory Week" borrow the name of the 1913 show but share nothing of its independent spirit. They are the trade shows of a contemporary salon aesthetic. So what's the best gift you could make in honor of the centenary? Skip the big fairs, travel to the most out-of-the-way gallery you can find, look for the most unexpected work of art in the place, and buy it.
Photo Courtesy Independent