Last week disappeared in an art tsunami that left show-goers dazed and glassy eyed. Started with a private showing by Paul Morris, one of the Armory (revisited) founders who set up an exhibition of contemporary superworks in a gutted 1882 bank building on Beekman Street downtown. All the names the big collectors want to own given its own separate peeling walls space in a one-off (42 works) exhibition to reel in the biggie buyers. It’s Morris’ contention that the 200 per year art fairs have run their course and sellers must conceive a new direction. This is his. We must agree about people being weary of art fair crowds who appear more and more to party, while fewer come for the art. El Anatsui, Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Basquiat, Calder, Cindy Sherman, Dan Flavin, Yves Klein, etc. – they were all there in great form. The artworks I mean.
And to speak of crowds – the lines at the Armory Pier Show Sunday were an hour long – to get in, to get from Pier 94 to 92, to get a taxi. The only quiet spot was the VIP Lounge where bottles of water cost $4 and a small tea was $3.50. At least it didn’t cost $80,000 for a (looks like styrofoam) melting 6-foot snowman artwork who stood guard outside one booth. I could see its amusement appeal if situated in the atrium of a Miami villa during a Basel Miami week party. Pier 92 was filled with first rate examples of art that revisited the 70s, the original Armory Show, the established names, and was a comforting and familiar sight for serious collectors. Probably more exciting than the ADAA exhibition at the 68th Street Armory, which had some really fine one-person sightings.
Mitchell-Inness & Nash displayed a wonderful group of Arp sculpture, drawings and reliefs; “political pop” shouted from the walls of Mary Ryan Gallery with the Big Daddy portraits of grotesque men in various guises; Galerie Lelong surprised with the early paintings and works on paper (1975-1980) of Sean Scully, the kind of show that lets you see where an artist is coming from before he got here; another kind of surprise by Kiki Smith with her flat metal dogs, birds and flowers bolted to the wall; and the leaves of ore of Tam Van Tran whose fluttery leaves adhered to panels occasionally flutter off the backing (as the artist intended), but did he intend an endless departure? Mystery to me.
At Sean Kelly Gallery a Mapplethorpe photo of Roy Lichtenstein, from an edition of 3, was available for $40,000, and at James Goodman Gallery a large classic pencil drawing of a woman by John Graham was available for $250,000 while a large painting of two men by the artist dominated another booth at $3.5 million. A small “Elegy” painting by Motherwell looked inviting at $750,000 at Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, and at Pace Prints a Barnett Newman silkscreen on plexi on wood, from an edition of 125 from 1966, was yours for $60,000. Probably an excellent purchase if you’re looking into the future.
All right, we could go on and on and on. There was so much art to be seen around New York this past week it was overload for those whose livelihood derives from that source, which to others may be pure viewing pleasure. It makes for a very overcrowded eye, if there is such a term. If not, we invented it today.