The Armory Show, Undeterred by the Pandemic, Plots Its Return

Here’s what to expect from New York’s pre-eminent contemporary art fair, which takes over the Javits Center from September 9–12.

The Armory Show will take place at the Jacob Javits Center in New York from September 9–12.

For the past 18 months, art and design fairs weathered seismic shifts in how collectors and enthusiasts interact with in-person events. The Armory Show had it particularly rough—its longtime home, Pier 92 along the Hudson River in Manhattan, was declared structurally unsound, meaning the fair would need to find a backup site posthaste. Fairgoers were advised to play it safe the following year, when the show opened right as the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to an unprecedented standstill. (Attendees likely remember doing double takes at signs of the new normal, i.e. the multiple hand sanitizing stations and newly habitual elbow bumping.)

In the lead up to the in-person fair at the Javits Center this September, The Armory Show went virtual with digital initiatives like Armory Access: Curated. The virtual viewing room kicked off in April with a group exhibition (Hank Willis Thomas, Gordon Matta Clark, Andrea Bowers, and more) that explored how the pandemic might become an opportunity to imagine a more equitable society. 

Amamentação (Breastfeeding), 2021 by Jaider Esbell. Photography by Filipe Berndt, presented by Galerie Millan

Though we all quickly learned that virtual shows can’t replicate the experience and energy of in-person events, Armory Access: Curated gave us a taste of what to expect from this year’s fair. The show will settle into its new permanent home, the Jacob Javits Center, with an enhanced in-person experience for exhibitors, collectors, and New York’s cultural community. For the first time, all exhibitors will be united under one roof in an expansive space with unobstructed sight lines and spacious lounges imagined by architects Frederick Fisher and Partners. The newly reimagined space, according to Fisher, “reflects the quintessential identity and energy of New York City” with references to Manhattan’s grid and a layout that “encourages serendipitous encounters of discovery and delight.”

Nicole Berry, executive director of the Armory Show, shares that optimism. “We believe New York will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever, and we’re excited to anchor the fall arts season at this pivotal moment when the city’s cultural organizations are reopening and experiencing art in-person is becoming possible again for everyone,” she said in a statement. “[We’ve] always been a place for profitable exchange and new discoveries, and the fair’s successful return this fall will signal the resurgence of the cultural sector and serve as a barometer for the art market.” 

Untitled (2021) by Jeff Zimmerman. Photography by Joe Kramm, courtesy R & Company
Chosen Family No. 14 (2021) by Jon Key. Image courtesy of the artist and Steve Turner

In terms of what’s new, the fair will continue highlighting the art world’s marquee names and rising stars alike. Longtime exhibitors Sean Kelly, Victoria Miro, and Kasmin will return, while galleries such as David Zwirner, Almine Rech, and Sadie Coles HQ will debut again after a hiatus. The Galleries section will feature solo presentations from the likes of Galerie Lelong and Marc Selwyn, which will present a can’t-miss showcase of Michelle Stuart, one of the last living land artists. The Presents section will focus on new discoveries, such as Deli Gallery’s showcase of paintings and paper works by nonbinary Black artist Brianna Rose Brooks and Dastan’s Basement’s focus on multimedia works about the environment by Iranian artist Meghdad Lorpour.

In the Focus section, curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi will explore the artist’s role in shaping the future and imagining realities beyond our current condition through the lens of community, government, economy, and environment. Carla Jay Harris will present the latest edition of her Celestial Bodies Series of photo-based prints, which reimagine ancient gods as peaceful Black protagonists inhabiting the space where heaven meets earth. Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme will present a single-channel video that reflects on what it means to be perceived as an “illegal” person, body, or entity. And in the Platform section of site-specific installations, curator Claudia Schmuckli riffs on how “Ecologies of Care” can counter threats of climate change and public health crises.

The Armory Show will take place at the Javits Center in New York from September 9–12. Reserve your tickets online today.

Portrait of Jordan Phillips II (2020) by Kehinde Wiley. Image courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

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