Jon Key’s "Chosen Family No. 14," 2021, at Steve Turner (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Tracey Emin’s "I Am the Last of My Kind," 2019, at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Demetrius Oliver’s "Seminole," 2005, at Inman Gallery (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
María Fernanda Cardoso’s "Actual size XI Male Maratus bubo," 2021, at Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Kehinde Wiley’s "Portrait of Jordan Phillips II," 2020, at Roberts Projects (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Tony Matelli's "Arrangement," 2016, at Maruani Mercier (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Jeffrey Gibson's "A Time For Change," 2020, at Tandem Press (Courtesy of The Armory Show)
Twenty-seven years ago — nearly a decade before Art Basel came to American shores — a micro art fair, The Armory Show, was born that would go on to shape both the New York and U.S. collecting scene for decades to come. It eclipsed the then-dominate Art Expo in Chicago and built a brand, with curatorial chops and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Just four dealers participated that first year, setting up in rented rooms in the art-filled Gramercy Park Hotel. The fair expanded, with a move to the Upper East Side’s historic 69th Street Regiment Armory, then to the West Side Piers, and now Javits Center.
This year’s Armory Show, September 9 though 12, offers exciting and robust programming, as well as the main attraction: a roster of more than 200 dealers, encompassing international galleries from 38 countries as well as America’s finest, including nearly 60 from the heart of the U.S. art world, New York. Calendar these dates: Public days Friday through Sunday, September 10 through 12.
Must-Sees at The Armory Show 2021
Tracey Emin is the ultimate representative of the bold and the brave — and the creator of such still shocking works as the Tate-owned My Bed, 1998, a self-portrait of vulnerability utilizing the artist’s actual unmade bed. Recently, the in-your- face bad girl of the YBA movement moved back home to blue-collar seaside town Margate, survived an aggressive form of cancer, rediscovered painting, and presented an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, where her new works dialogued with those of a painter of the past whom she admires greatly: Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch, creator of The Scream. See the fearless Emin’s most recent work, including an emblematic canvas laced with text exhibited at the Royal Academy that emits a feminist battle cry, at the booth of the artist’s Rome dealer, Galleria Lorcan O’Neill.
Sculptor Tony Matelli looks to nature for inspiration. From his creepy, hyper-real Sleepwalker to his ongoing painted bronze trompe l’oeil Weed sculptures (collected by Amy Sedaris), the artist slyly subverts reality. Of his Weeds, Tony Matelli tells PaperCity, “I wanted to locate an image of hope and possibility, persistence, and rebellion.” At the Armory, Belgium-based Maruani Mercier features the sculptor’s Arrangement (2016), a topsy-turvy lifelike bouquet of day lilies that are eternally rendered in bronze, albeit in an upside Alice in Wonderland way.
Kerry Inman is one of two Texas dealers, both based in Houston, to step upon the prestigious Armory stage. In the exhibition section, Solo, devoted to a single and singular artist, Inman Gallery presents a tightly curated body of work by former Texas artist Demetrius Oliver, currently based in New York. With residencies of renown including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Core Program and the Studio Museum in Harlem, Oliver promises to make an impact at The Armory Show with his signature photographs spanning 2003 to 2006. These potent, reductive images culled from his own body pack a visceral impact, pairing enigmatic undertones of Surrealism with 19th-century Transcendentalism.
Another Houston trailblazer, this time of the Latin American modern and contemporary vanguard, Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino devotes its booth to María Fernanda Cardoso. The Venice Biennale-exhibited talent, born in Colombia and based now in Sydney, Australia, is obsessed with the natural world, both flora and fauna. Cardoso’s current subjects are Maratus jumping spiders, which she supersizes in photographic prints; the ongoing series, “Spiders of Paradise,” delights and surprises the viewer with the vivacious creatures’ colorful paint jobs. “I have enlarged the [spider’s] abdomen using cutting-edge technology so they are displayed at a size that would allow humans to perceive their utmost detail and beauty,” the artist says. “What fascinates me about the small is that it’s even more complex than the big.”
NATIVE AMERICANS IN FOCUS
Guest curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi, chief curator of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, has been tapped to organize one of the Armory’s innovative thematic sections, entitled Focus. Al-Khudhairi zeroes in on artists who investigate and question the future — seeking answers for the world of tomorrow as to economic, ecological, and sociopolitical responses. Highlighted within Focus are topics presented by Native Americans: Head to NYC-based Sargent’s Daughters to see Wendy Red Star’s rendition of a Crow Fair Parade for a fresh world order. Catch MacArthur Genius Fellow Jeffrey Gibson’s totemic and talismanic works on handmade elk-hide drums, at University of Wisconsin’s fine art publisher, Tandem Press.
PLATFORM FOR CHANGE
We love the vitality of The Armory Show and its immersive Platform section, devoted to installations and site-specific projects. To this end, former Blaffer Art Museum (Houston) curator — currently curator in charge of contemporary art and programming for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco — Claudia Schmuckli curates this always eagerly anticipated section of the fair. Schmuckli’s topic is both intimate and prescient: Ecologies of Care, from the self to each other to our environment. Among the nine headliners are the captivating figurative sculpture of Documenta- and Venice Biennale-exhibited Yinka Shonibare, CBE, a British-Nigerian artist who addresses colonialism at James Cohan; and 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate Michael Rakowitz, known for his global activism and performative projects, at Jane Lombard Gallery.
THE GREAT KEHINDE + DISCOVERING KEY
No art fair is complete without its icon. Don’t miss a grand Baroque statement by Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of Jordan Phillips II, 2020, at L.A. dealer Roberts Projects. And here’s a newcomer who’s both collectible and recommended: Alabama-born, Brooklyn-based Jon Key. Key utilizes stylized imagery and a controlled palette (red, green, violet, and black) in autobiographical paintings that comment on his identity as a Queer black man from the Deep South. Check out his canvas Chosen Family No. 14, 2021, at Steve Turner.
The Armory Show, Friday through Sunday, September 10 through 12, at Javits Center, New York; info and tickets, here.