2015 Armory Show - Initial Dispatch: Press Conference Review

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

2015 Armory Show - Initial Dispatch: Press Conference Review

Postby NYC_Correspondent-tm » Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:42 pm

On a wet, sloppy, yet not horribly frigid, grey end-of winter morning, I headed down the long walk from the subway at 50th St. to the stretch of shambling industrial steel structures on Piers 92 and 94 at the Hudson River for the 2015 Armory Show. The first day was the VIP and Press initial day of the fair, and I was heading first to the press conference to hear the kick-off introductory remarks before heading in for the show and the overwhelming crush of art, dealers, deals, fashion, self-importance, celebrity, plastic surgery, and of course cash.

Upon arriving at the Piers, the messy morass of the morning only got deeper as myself, and a troop of prickly sweaty tromping members of the media were en masse misdirected multiple times from one pier to the next about where to find the seemingly hidden press conference. Once we found the doors, we had to knock three times, spin around, and cast a magic spell to be let in. After finally speaking the incantation, we managed to enter for the conference.

To call the conference a conference is too generous. It should rather have been simply called a brief overview presentation to the press followed by some happy pictures. There was no Q&A session, and only some truly substantive information was provided. Rather, the presentation included an introduction to the fair and panelists on stage by the Executive Director, Noah Horowitz, followed by brief remarks from each panelist who represented a distinct angle or facet of the fair, either administratively, or mission-based.

Horowitz spoke first, addressing the shape of the fair from the past few years. Here, he said, the fair has made a concerted effort to trim itself down to two-hundred exhibitors, including forty solo shows, in the face of a record number of applications. But he failed to say why that was needed. Some more remarks about the reasons why it was so important to refine itself would have helped understand why he was so proud of the “trimming.” Had the show been too unfocused, and/or chaotic? Was it in danger of losing its prestige? I did think last year’s show was fairly uninteresting, save a few installations and pieces. Really, the past few years since the financial meltdown in 20007/08 have not had strong energy. But hearing some more details in that forum would have helped put reason to his statements, and hear about his view of art fairs and how the Armory Show distinguishes itself from others on the international circuit. But nothing. Instead, Horowitz moved on to mentioning the focus and partnering of this years Show - art from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (MENAM).

Speaking second was Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner for the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. First, Finkelpearl beamed about how New York City was still the cultural center of the Universe, and about how important the Armory Show was. (This “yay New York!” theme was later regurgitated by Glenn Lowery, the Director of the MoMA, in his uninspiring comments.) The Commissioner then discussed his agency’s role in providing funding for the arts in the city, noting that most of the money is distributed to non-profits in the city - meaning mostly museums; his department is also landlord for the Met Museum of Art. He then spoke about what he perceived as the false distinction between for-profit and non-profit organizations, claiming that galleries were becoming more like museums, and that “some would say” museums are becoming more like galleries. This idea about distinctions being blurred is one that was repeated several times throughout the fair with people I spoke with or remarks that were made by others. Importantly though, Finkelpearl left out any information about how much, if any, money was being provided by his department for the Armory or for any of the other art fairs and exhibitions throughout the week. Was he attempted in some fashion to jiu-jitsu justify his department spending on the Show? A simple quoting of actual cash amounts spent this week would have elucidated his statements, much more than his simplistic fluffery. If the Department spends money on the Show, then how much or why. If not, or if a little, then there is opportunity to speak a few words about the monetary and cultural reverberating flow between self-funding for-profits, specifically the Armory Show, and non-profits, or even smaller for-profits.

The next interesting speaker was Omar Kholeif, the Curator for the Armory focus on MENAM (and Curator at Whitechapel Gallery in London). Amongst describing the region (also through informational materials provided), including a number of works, and the idea of trade routes, Kholeif raised the theme again about the blur between nonprofit and for-profit spaces in the region. Specifically, he gave insight on how galleries function not only as conduits for sales, but that how they provide opportunities for money and exposure to artists where where there is limited opportunities in non-profit based spaces. That was more helpful, and refreshing. Thank you curator.

Lastly, Fady Jameel, President of Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (Art Jameel), and the education partner for the show, spoke about his organization and raising cultural awareness of the region. Later in the weekend, Art Jameel will host educational programs, in partnership with Edge of Arabia, a non-profit arts initiative that seeks to connect arts and cultural organizations from the MENAM region with Europe and the US.

Was I expecting too much from this conference? Possibly. The conference ended up being more for people to collect themselves, chatter around, and hear a brief introduction. But why should the conference been more informative and substantive, with an opportunity for incisive questions and answers. Isn't the purpose to inform, or is it just a veneer of gloss because the Show makes money no matter what? At least there was fantastic pastries provided by the wonderful Breads Bakery (who make an unreasonably decadent Babka, although no sign of Babka at the press conference, unless it was shoveled down before I got to the tables in back where kibbutzing and food attacking was occurring). Sadly though, the coffee ran out far too quickly and was never replenished, leaving many of us grumbling, and having to forage elsewhere. At noon, the Show officially opened, and everyone streamed out into the wild alleys and valleys to a waiting whirlwind world of explosive color (except in demographics) and deal making...
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Re: 2015 Armory Show - Initial Dispatch: Press Conference Re

Postby CAP » Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:30 am

Looking forward to hearing more about the art now... :|
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