The Armory Show: New Digs, Same Fair

by Art Fag City on February 23, 2007 Events

Pipilotti Rist, Small Homo Toes The Line, Kleiner Mensch ist zu einem Vorhaben bereit, 2006
Video still, ink print on rag paper, sheet size: 23 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches
Courtesy of the Artist, Hauser & Wirth Zurich London and Luhring Augustine, New York

No longer broken up over three buildings, the Armory Show now sprawls across one giant floor space at Pier 94. Booths larger than most mid-sized New York apartments no longer permeate the fair, and railroad-like floor plans that practically advertise how much you pay for your space disappeared with the new digs as well.

Even with all these changes though, the fair remains essentially the same. This year I left the building wondering which of maybe a dozen average art works I would discuss, and what I could possibly say that wouldn’t simply be a repeat of last year’s coverage. Those posts can be read here and here but distilled to two sentences read as follow: It’s hard to know what to think of anything. Everything looks like you should buy it.

Simon Evans, Buy Me, I’m at an Art Fair, at White Columns
Photo AFC

I suspect those sentiments weigh heavier than we recognize, as not even a year ago, you could still expect to see at least three or four text-based works by artists that sneered at the economy of the art market. This year, Simon Evans’, Buy Me, I’m at an Art Fair, represents the only self-conscious work remotely of this nature, and though it does not attempt criticality, it would still appear to be more thought on the subject of shopping than we like, as it is relegated to a prime position next to an exit sign in a small corner of the fair near a pile of junk leaning against a wall. The fact that art like this tends to be no good on the surface may in part explain its position, (the price of the piece relative to the value of the real estate it hangs on certainly plays a role as well,) but you don’t have to think about the matter too long before you remember that people will show all manner of crap so long as it’s salable. Few people seem to think work critical of the market merits engagement these days though, so the community disengages. Artists don’t make the work, nobody cares that it’s missing, and you’re stuck with 175,000 thousand square feet of salable work you’re supposed evaluate on merit increasingly defined by the market.

Mayor Bloomberg addresses the press at the Armory yesterday
Photo AFC

In case there was any doubt that this should be the criteria for evaluation, Mayor Bloomberg’s opening remarks focused primarily on how much money the fairs would bring in to the city. His offices estimate approximately $50 million, so you won’t find much surprise that he chooses to focus on this aspect of the fairs. Meanwhile, the scope of these fairs seems to be expanding to represent virtually any form of art that can be commodified. The Armory features the dubiously artful dump truck covered in mirrors as a possible sale object, (the merit of which Bloomberg was asked to expound upon at the press conference, which resulted in a long and rambling non-response that closed with the thought that his floors probably couldn’t support the weight of the truck) whereas nearby fairs display countless works best suited for coffee shops. At some point you have to ask yourself how far the field of Fine Art can be stretched in the name of commerce. I get the feeling we haven’t seen the half of it yet.

Correction: Due to general human error I reported that the Armory had lost space in its move to Pier 94 when it had in fact had not.

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