Whitehot Magazine

March 2008, The Armory Show, Pier 94, NY

The Armory Show
March 27 through 30, 2008
150 Galleries Featuring New Art by Living Artists

For an entire decade now, The Armory Show, a.k.a. The International Fair of New Art, has been bringing a substantial amount of living artists’ fresh, unedited, yet to be critiqued works to the city of New York. This year, the work of over 2,000 living artists from 160 of the world’s prominent galleries and NPOs were chosen to represent what art is now.

Upon walking into the transformed Pier 94 this weekend, one could notice a palpable air of contentment. Not much more, not much less. The galleries, all lined up very methodically, were professional. People running the show at their respective galleries were busy on their laptops, or talking to foreign investors, patrons, artists, and business people alike, fresh off the plane from India or Berlin. Things happen very successfully here, smoothly, almost to a point of fault. Viewers, as if on a conveyor belt, move in an orderly fashion down the many aisles that line the sizable sinuous room. No one really stops cold at any one thing, but everyone gives just enough time to almost each piece, alluding to a general consensus of satisfaction. People got what they expected. For the most part.

Some standouts include a piece entitled Tool Table by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn, who stays true to his usual hyper-saturated installation form with this rather large and busy table-top piece. Mannequin hands clutch existential greats such as Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, while scissors, hammers, wrenches and other pain inducing type apparatus are held to the plastic hands by an inordinate amount of duck tape. Perhaps this is Hirschhorn’s valiant effort to visually manifest the indomitable Greek mantra, “live free or die”? But, then again, he is a Marxist.

Neon was almost as ubiquitous as sex this year, and or anti-war espousal, the latter two themes being per usual for any modern art show. Over a dozen artists used neon in their works, many of them installations, some shining the incandescent rays behind sculptures for contrast, and some using neon to illuminate text against a darker backdrop. Perhaps these artists were hoping for the same success experienced by one particular neon friendly woman, Tracey Emin, whose neon, I promise to love you, all three editions, sold for $110,000 each. This sale in addition to many others indicated that despite the dire financial situation in the US, felt especially here in New York, art sales at the show did not seem to suffer as a consequence.

Some pieces showcased by galleries however did allude to their own fears of low sales. Many pieces were ‘safer’ than usual, and some paintings more conservative so as to appeal to a broader range of buyers. Swiss pop artist Sylvie Fleury’s florescent pink split car that is Crime Scene, No.6, was another big standout like Hirschhorn’s piece, and ironically, it was these two that had trouble being sold on opening day. Practically however, the bigger the piece the smaller the pool of potential buyers, considering that many urbanites looking to buy live in apartments, most probably not big enough to house a piece even half the size of Hirschhorn’s or Fleury’s.

Also interesting to note about these two standout’s is that even though they received a lot of attention at The Armory Show in the sense that they were looked at, written about and photographed at a much higher volume than others, indicating that they might be unique, both pieces are standard for their respective artist. Hirschhorn uses similar materials to Tool Table, duck tape and cardboard, in almost all of his recent works. Fleury is known for her vibrant colors such as silver and hot pink, the latter of which was color she used for the car mold. In other words, with these pieces, both artists are continuing with their respective themes, styles, materials and concepts, rendering The Armory Show pieces of work that have essentially been done before, albeit by them. So while they may be original in a grander scheme, they are certainly not breakthrough or unique to this particular show.

The Armory Show began ten years ago to give living modern artists a chance to express themselves, challenge conventions of society and the existing art standard, and to essentially shake things up. Ten years later, can we say that this vision is being fulfilled?

Christina Livadiotis

Christina Livadiotis is a graduate of Georgetown University and a freelance writer in New York City . 


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