Arts / Galleries

An Insider’s Guide to Manhattan’s 2023 Armory Show —The Standouts, Discoveries, and Texas’ Best

Let the Art Games Begin

BY // 08.29.23

The international art market, vis-à-vis the fairs, keeps to a strict calendar. Mega collectors flock to Miami in December (Art Basel Miami Beach); Dallas and Chicago in April (Dallas Art Fair, Expo Chicago); and Basel, Switzerland, in June (Art Basel). But autumn 2023 belongs to Manhattan. The Armory Show launches the fall art season every September.

It’s a tradition that began 29 years ago — a lifetime ago in contemporary art, and a decade before the first Art Basel Miami Beach was hatched — when a micro art fair was born that would go on to shape both the New York and U.S. collecting scene for a generation to come. Just four dealers participated that first year, setting up in rented rooms in the art-filled Gramercy Park Hotel. The fair soon expanded, with a move to the Upper East Side’s historic 69th Regiment Armory, then to the West Side Piers, and now its latest home, Javits Center.

This year’s Armory Show promises stimulating and robust programming, alongside its main attraction: a roster of more than 225 dealers encompassing galleries from 35 countries as well as America’s finest. 

Ever one to probe the edges of the scene, where fresh curatorial vision happens, The Armory Show has expanded its embrace of emerging dealers (defined as less than 10 years as gallerists) to forge the Presents area of the fair. Beeline to L.A.-based Sow & Tailor’s booth, which replicates a psychic reader’s storefront, stocked with new paintings by Kayla Witt, and canvases that meld a Pop kick with Surrealist attitude.

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Kayla Witt’s Alignment, 2023, at Sow & Tailor (Courtesy Mason Kuehler and Sow & Tailor)

Recommended in the Solo category is Bridget Mullen’s deranged but captivating psychedelic figuration at Shulamit Nazarian (L.A.). Also in Solo, Lagos, Nigeria dealer presents multimedia talent Modupeola Fadugba’s ongoing series, Dreams from the Deep End, exploring racial justice via the true narrative of an all-Black synchronized swimming team based in Harlem.

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Modupeola Fadugba’s Bronze Reflections: Out of My Depth, 2023, at kó (Courtesy kó)

Tapestries, beading, and weavings are highlighted from talents getting their day, including the iconic Joyce J. Scott (at Peter Blum Gallery) and Sheila Hicks (Galerie Frank Elbaz). Then there’s the rediscovery of Latinx fiber artist/feminist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, the subject of San Antonio-founded Ruiz-Healy Art’s booth in Focus.   

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In the Platform section, immersive installations and site-specific works reign. Must-sees include works by bona fide art stars Yinka Shonibare CBE at James Cohan, MFAH Core Fellow alum Shahzia Sikander at Sean Kelly, Hank Willis Thomas at Ben Brown Fine Arts, and Teresita Fernández at Lehmann Maupin, alongside those up-and-comers we need to know, including Barthélémy Toguo at Galerie Lelong & Co. and Jean Shin at Praise Shadows Art Gallery.

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Yinka Shonibare’s Refugee Astronaut IV, 2023, at James Cohan Gallery (Photo by Stephen White)

It’s de rigueur to check out global gallery brands, especially Kaikai Kiki Gallery (Tokyo), founded by owner/superstar talent Takashi Murakami, with its cool emphasis on the Superflat movement, always a crowd-pleaser. Also investigate Almine Rech (NY, Paris, Brussels, London, Shanghai), showcasing 2020 Pierre Cardin de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts de Paris prize-winning painter Alexandre Lenoir in a solo collection of canvases informed by color washes, stenciling, and a loose improvisation of reality. Indie dealers such as Philadelphia-based Locks Gallery also shine; Guerrilla Girls will applaud their booth focused upon contemporary power painters, all women: Jane Irish, Pat Steir, Joanna Pousette-Dart. Meanwhile, at Pace Prints, snap up editioned works on paper by James Turrell or Leonardo Drew. 

One of Texas’ most acclaimed galleries returns, Sicardi Ayers Bacino of Houston, with its window upon the most important modern and contemporary talents in Latin American art, including 2022 Armory Pommery Prize winner Reynier Leyva Novo, a Cuban émigré known for political-social justice creations.

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Reynier Leyva Novo’s Los Olores de la Guerra (The Scents of War), 2009, at Sicardi Ayers Bacino (Courtesy Sicardi Ayers Bacino)

Others with Texas connections: Richard Patterson, a YBA painter now in Dallas, at top London dealer Timothy Taylor Gallery; and Mary Ellen Carroll at Galerie Hubert Winter (Vienna).

Finally, make time to visit No Gallery (New York), which scored a complimentary booth as the recipient of this year’s Gramercy International Art Prize. Don’t miss the live drawing session Housecalls, conducted by NYC artist Drake Carr and presented by Artists Space, part of the Armory’s longstanding Cultural Partners Program.

The Armory Show, Friday – Sunday, September 8 – 10; VIP Preview, Thursday, September 7; at Javits Center, New York; tickets and more info here.

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