The New York fair marches on even as questions swirl about consolidation in the industry.
Eileen Kinsella // 8 September 2023
Gossip about recent art fair-industry consolidation was a major focus at the VIP opening day of The Armory Show, as art world denizens debated the impact of the Frieze acquisition of both Armory and EXPO Chicago earlier this summer.
For the near term, and amid a buzzy opening that seemed to only be gathering momentum as the the day wound on (the fair runs until September 10), Armory Show executive director Nicole Berry was laser-focused. “I feel like this is just such a strong fair. And the response has been wonderful and supportive of that,” Berry told Artnet News a few hours into the opening.
Berry said that everything was already very much in motion for this year’s edition when the Frieze acquisition was announced in mid-July. “My team has been focused on creating a great fair. A lot of the discussions about what happens in the future will be post-fair,” she said. For now Frieze New York, which takes place just a few blocks south of the Javits Center in the multi-level venue of the Shed, at Hudson Yards, is scheduled to take place as usual, as is the 2024 edition of Armory, again at the Javits.
However, this year’s fair, the Armory’s third appearance at the Javits Center, was a tonal downshift from 2022. The 225 exhibitors marked a drop from last year’s 240, and on day 1 there was a sense among fairgoers that attendance was light.
The broader art market correction that saw tepid at best (and disastrous at worst) auction results in New York this spring may now be manifesting in the primary market. Dealers at the VIP preview told Artnet News that sales were slower than last year. Sales figures are still trickling in, but beyond what works sell and for how much is the matter of what is for sale—some might characterize the bevy of figurative paintings on offer as evidence dealers are playing it safe.
To be sure, enthusiasm for art fairs practically piqued in 2022. It’s hard to compare to the mood of a year marked by jubilation that Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions were for the most part behind us—enthusiasm that surely juiced sales and attendance. Perhaps in anticipation of that, organizers purposefully shrunk the fair slightly this year, according to Berry.
“The fair is about 9 percent smaller based on our own decision,” she said. “We felt like we wanted to bring it in a little bit. When we first started here at the Javits, we had really wide aisles and big spacious areas because of Covid. And now the beauty of this venue as opposed to the piers is…it’s not cramped and crowded. But we sill wanted good energy and I think we found the right balance."
Miles McEnery Gallery, which has been drawing buzz with a string of adjoining ground-level galleries in Chelsea, found success with contemporary favorites, including Inka Essenhigh, Jacob Hashimoto, Tom LaDuke, and James Siena. “There is a palpable electricity to the fair this year with robust sales from longtime friends and new collectors from across the U.S.,” said Miles McEnery.
The Armory Show is on view at the Javits Center from September 8 through 10.