Pier 94—The Beautiful People

March 10th, 2009 § 0 comments

I wonder who thought art fairs were a good idea: investors, collectors, rich folk shopping for a new painting for the dinning room, museum directors, or gallery owners? It was certainly not thought a great idea by the makers of art, even those egotistical enough to dream of being the highlight of such a gathering of stuff, would never call it an ideal space. I could not help but wonder about this as I wandered through the Armory Show this past weekend. I was curious about the event in general, I wanted to see how it compared to Art Basel, for though I guessed it would contain many of the same galleries and artists, in the post-economic meltdown I thought the vibe, perhaps translating into the overall aesthetic, might be different—more subdued and less extravagant?

pier 94

I was relieved that this event was less costly than Basel, students could enter the maze of portable white walls for a somewhat reasonable price, the ticket included admission to both piers (92 & 94), but one was more than sufficient to become completely visually overwhelmed. I wondered as I wandered how the spaces were chosen and how the galleries chose their representative artists. Judging from the odd juxtapositions and the decorative, tasteful quality of the art I made my guesses. This lead to my amazement that someone, somehow, somewhere, decided this was a good idea.


(The Lovers III, Zineb Sedira)

It felt like a BFA show gone very, very badly. In the same way you can’t really understand how it took an undergrad four years to make a few slightly interesting drawings, it was hard to fathom how certain artists were shown by certain galleries. The work was also as mixed and as varied as in an undergraduate exhibition, intriguing pieces were placed next to, in some cases, literal rubbish; rotting meat next to subtle engravings, flashing neon text reading please don’t touch the art alongside paintings turned ready-made. The organization of the galleries was worse than I remember my BFA show being, there at least you could tell one student from the other 400, here it was a confusing maze of white walls, odd divisions, sharp corners, and surprising turns. The same artists turning up in multiple places certainly didn’t help with the confusion.

armory show

(Postcards, Susan Hiller)

At Basel the location of the fair seemed to be the most important thing, the stress on the Miami Beach! part of the title was hard to overlook, but at the Armory Show, housed in some unglamorous tents with yellow caution tape telling you to watch the uneven ground and makeshift doorways, it was the people that were of interest. I have never seem so many clearly and undeniably lovely people in all my life. It was amazing. They were not attractive in that west coast way, with blond curls, bouncing breasts, and a vacuous smile, they looked more like the east coast intellectual elite—classy, dressed in designers I catalogue at work, with a grace and elegance to their movements. There was no one certain way to look, either, but tall, graceful faces in fashionable attire made the event more glamorous, and certainly more interesting, than it otherwise would have been. I almost watched the people looking at the artwork more than I looked at the artwork itself. The Diane Arbus twins arrested my gaze for a good long while, but otherwise, I felt like I was living up to the serotype of ten seconds per artwork.


Aside from the people the locations of the galleries were interesting to observe in tandem with the kind of work they presented. It was entertaining to watch the quality of the work shift from place to place, it was like traveling the world looking at the artwork of a few select galleries—it was unmistakable when I entered either LA or Gotham. The Armory Show was, despite all my griping, a more subdued and reasonable affaire, doubtlessly not by choice, but the overall mood inside the tent was not quite as pretentious as it could have been. I overheard a remarkably articulate and handsome viewer say to a cameraman asking questions about the overall mood of the show, “there is a lot of fun artwork.” Both the stress and the insult were on the word fun.

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