New York art fairs return with eyes open and fingers crossed

Artwork is being shipped from overseas, the exhibition hall has been renovated, and ticket sales have begun for the Armory Show, which i...

Artwork is being shipped from overseas, the exhibition hall has been renovated, and ticket sales have begun for the Armory Show, which is set to become the first major U.S. art fair to return to the amid the pandemic, when it opened on September 9 at its new location at the Javits Convention Center.

“We have to be ready for anything,” said the general manager of the fair, Nicole Berry, in a telephone interview. “We are organizing this event and have a plan A, B, C, D and E.”

When plans for the Armory Show were drawn up earlier this year, Berry envisioned the fair as an anchor for the fall art season, symbolizing the art world’s triumphant return to in-person sale. and chatter. She planned to open her event near full capacity, welcoming thousands of visitors to browse the works of nearly 500 artists presented by more than 200 galleries from 37 countries.

“We believe NYC will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever,” Berry said at the time, describing the fall season as a “pivotal moment in the reopening of the city’s cultural organizations”.

Then came a summer resurgence of the coronavirus, stagnant vaccination rates and travel restrictions, preventing many galleries from participating in what has generally been an economic engine in the art market. And earlier this month, several trade shows decided to cancel their shows, making champagne and oyster-shelling celebrations of the past seem unlikely. The New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, the New York International Auto Show and PAD London, an art and design fair, have all decided to forgo their 2021 editions.

The Armory Show still intends to feature dealers like David Zwirner, Stephen Friedman, and Marianne Boesky and to feature prominent artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Deborah Roberts, and Jeffrey Gibson. But not everyone is on board. Almost a quarter of its more than 200 exhibitors have postponed their attendance at the physical show – although they will participate online – due to travel restrictions. Gallery representatives who are unable to attend will see registrations postponed to next year’s edition, Berry said.

Some European collectors wishing to attend the fair have their own contingency plans. Alain Servais, a Belgian investment banker and collector, considered spending two weeks in Mexico to bypass travel restrictions in his home country to enter the United States. “It’s nonsense and something very few people can afford,” he said. “So, for now, the American art world will be largely left alone.”

Global art fair sales reached around $ 16.6 billion in 2019, nearly 43% of annual dealer sales, according to the Art Basel and UBS Art Market 2021 report. This percentage was cut in two during the pandemic, when more than 60% of art fairs around the world canceled events and dealers found ways to reach customers online.

“When the vaccine first became widely available, it looked like a switch was going to flip and everything would suddenly flip, including large public gatherings like fairs,” said Natasha Degen, President of Market Research. of art at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Events like the Armory Show will attract a core of art players, but not the larger crowds that have energized fairs in recent years. “

Organizers of the Armory Show said the majority of ticket sales take place right before the event and without a reservation, so it’s hard to say how crowded the showroom will be. In a typical year, the show sees around 54,000 people during its duration, but the pandemic has brought about some health and safety measures that could limit crowds. These include a mask warrant inside the exhibit, timed tickets, and either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of entering the Javits Center. Two other fairs opened that same week adopted the same policy: the Spring / Spring Break Art Exhibition at 625 Madison Avenue and the Fair of the future at 601 West 26th Street. However, visitors wishing to attend Independent at the Battery Maritime Building and Art on paper at Pier 36 must be vaccinated.

Despite the setbacks and uncertainties, the Armory Show continues a program that revises its model. His new location at the Javits Center allowed the fair’s organizers to combine its sections of modern and contemporary art under one roof. The fair is also investing more in public art, launching a new program called Armory Off-Site, which has tasked four artists to create works across town with the help of city groups like the Parks Department, the Hudson River. Park Trust and the Hell’s Kitchen Alliance.

One of the off-site programs is at Pier 64, where artist Katja Larsson will present “New Neo Classics”, a series of sculptures that imbue everyday objects like a crumpled baseball cap with an antique aura reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian statues fragmented. found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another offsite work will feature a large camper van parked at Astor Place, where artists Johnny DeFeo and Aaron Zulpo, from a collective called Guild of Adventure Painters, will host painting sessions with guest artists and share an exhibit. new works.

In Chelsea, the Future Fair has rebuilt its program from the ground up after postponing its inaugural edition last year due to the pandemic. Almost half of the show’s animators will not be able to participate and will be replaced by new galleries. Of the new list of 34 exhibitors, 25% are people of color and half are women – a rarity in the art fair world, which lacks diversity.

“We’ve been working on it since 2018 and it’s a labor of love,” said Rachel Mijares Fick, one of the organizers of the Future Fair. “There were times when we said to ourselves, how are we going to get over this? “

A similar question floated in the minds of other gallery owners who had to make a decision about their participation in the Armory Show.

“It was a disappointment to realize that we would not make it this year,” said Nadia Gerazouni, whose Athens gallery, the breeder, decided to participate online. The Armory Show would have been the dealer’s first physical fair since the start of the pandemic, and an opportunity to introduce its young artists to the US market. Other galleries decided to hire agents to run their stands, but Gerazouni was skeptical. “It’s not possible for a new hire to come forward and do the job of a gallery manager,” she said.

Daniel Faria, a dealer based in Toronto, is determined to succeed at The Armory Show for the sake of its artists. Last year, Jennifer Rose Sciarrino was scheduled to attend Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center when the program shifted focus because of the pandemic. She lost this opportunity, but will have another chance to exhibit through the Armory Show.

“We have a responsibility to show his work,” said Faria, who is about to wear an N95 mask on the showroom floor to be safe.

“To say that I am 100% comfortable wouldn’t necessarily be true,” he added. “But at this point, we’ve made a commitment to go and the Armory Show would have to cancel for us not to go.”


The Armory Show will take place from September 9 to 12; tickets are available at

Independent art fair, from September 9 to 12; tickets are available on

Future Fair, September 9-12; tickets are on

Art on paper, September 9-12; tickets are on

Spring / break art exhibition, from September 8 to 13; tickets are on

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Newsrust - US Top News: New York art fairs return with eyes open and fingers crossed
New York art fairs return with eyes open and fingers crossed
Newsrust - US Top News
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