“Posters, Souvenirs, and Other Stuff Curated by Jacob Fabricius” reads the front page header on the Armory Show Map & Show Guide. The subtitle below is even more direct: “FREE STUFF”.
These aren't the kind of words I expect to see from a fair with an enormously commercial reputation, and it’s a breath of fresh air within an otherwise staid fair. To collect some of this schwag, simply head to the Nordic section of the fair. Amidst the 19 invited galleries is the work of more than 23 artists from the region, chosen not by exhibitors but by Fabricius himself.
To get a sense of the kind of programming consider the following; An orchestral performance titled “Kreppa: Symphonic Poem About The Financial Crisis in Iceland”, by Ã–rn Alexander Ãmundason. It was executed twice opening day (sadly, there are no additional slated performances). Then there was Lea Porsager's free acupuncture needles and photographs referencing the Marquis de Sade's tale of 2000 pins stuck in a nipple (yes, you can actually take home needles from the Armory this year), and rolls of toilet paper and candy with the word “Angst” typewritten on them by Henrik Plenge Jakobsen. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, with well-known artists such as FOS, Danh Vo and Matts Leiderstam in the mix.
In total there are 15 posters, more boxes of pens, pencils, and buttons than you can count, 4 performance works that occur throughout the run of the show, and no fewer than 18 talks between New York-based and Nordic art professionals (those are curated by Amanda Parmer). In truth, that list may only be half of it. When I spoke to the Armory's Managing Director Michael Hall, about Fabricius' role, he made clear that the curator’s hand was in seemingly every public program at the fair. “We gave him free range.” he told me.
This kind of relationship isn't particularly common in corporate environments, so I asked Hall how the partnership evolved. “It was fairly organic.” he said. “We began by asking some of the galleries we were already friendly with there, and I kept hearing his name.” When they were introduced, in Basel, Hall pitched Fabricius on the project, and there it began.
Notably, this is the first time the Armory has worked with a curator to produce a section of the fair. Last year, the fair's focus on International art makers produced a Latin specific wing, but the curation was all done in-house.
This year is different in that Fabricius took on that role for the Armory. The result is a more varied mix of galleries than we normally see at the Armory: some, like Dortmund Bodega, an artist-run gallery located in Oslo, are two or three years old, but others, like Karlsson of Stockholm, have been around for decades. When asked why he chose the galleries he did, Fabricius' answer was simple: “I thought it was important to give the opportunity for different voices to speak.”