The Armory Show: 1913 vs. 2013

by Paddy Johnson on February 28, 2013 The L Magazine

In honor of The Armory’s 100th anniversary, I do a short comparison of the Armory Fair, then and now. I won’t spoil the results, but it probably won’t come as any surprise that I think the current version of the fair could do better.

In 2013, The New York Armory Show (March 7-10), formerly known as The International Exhibition of Modern Art, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. That’s a lot of history to look back upon, so we’re going to make things easy on ourselves and skip pretty much all of it. What follows is a comparison between the Armory that shocked and amazed audiences in 1913 and the Armory that shocks and amazes audiences today.

Two-thirds of the paintings on view at the first Armory show were by American artists who’d been inspired by Rembrandt and Titian. The other third were by Europeans—Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp—whose work would challenge audiences and critics across the country.

The Armory will show over 200 galleries from 30 countries, so I guess it’s as international as ever. Is it as challenging to art audiences, though? Not if you believe being challenged means being introduced to new, lesser-known artists. “Focus,” the invitation-only section of the fair meant to give exposure to under-recognized yet thriving communities, usually in other countries, will focus on the US this year. The world’s largest gallery, Gagosian Gallery, is among the invited participants, and will showcase Andy Warhol, the world’s best known artist. The Armory could stand to be a little more adventurous.

To read the full piece click here.

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