Armory Show 2009 New York City: Is OK good enough?

UGL (C) Kenny Scharf courtesy Paul Kamsin Gallery

I liked this year's Armory Show: There was good art and the sales were not as crazy as before.


New York City is still the home base of many important collectors. For them it is part of their lifestyle to buy contemporary art - even in difficult economic times.


On the third day of the Armory Art Fair 2009 I watched a prominent US art dealer walking from booth to booth and asking his colleagues:


‘How are you doing, ok?!’


‘Yes, we are doing ok - but ok is not enough!’


was the answer of a prominent German art dealer.


But the world is not the same anymore: In Chelsea, NYC, closed a large number of galleries during the last six months.


The economic situation also changed this year’s Armory Art Fair:


  • 177 international contemporary galleries on pier 94 (last year 160)
  • Some smaller booths
  • Newcomer galleries were first time accepted
  • Return of major galleries (e.g. Lambert, Pace Wildenstein, and Zwirner)
  • New pier 92 with a focus on modern art and 68 galleries
  • 56,000 visitors


There was also a ‘special project’ curated by the fair: Kenny Scharf, being dressed like a carnival astronaut, was driving in his self designed golf cart around the fair at all day. He was promoting his one man show at the booth of his NYC dealer, Paul Kamsin Gallery.


Funny - but very 80s.


L. A. dealer Mark Foxx showed a good painting by Brian Calvin ‘Can with landscape (Robin)’ of 2009. I like Brian Calvin as he is following his very own style and able to show emotions.



(C) Brian Calvin courtesy Mark Foxx Gallery

Some French galleries caught my attention:


I liked the one man show of Gyan Panchal at the French Frank Elbaz Gallery. He is a French-Indian artist using plastic packaging materials. Others didn’t like his contribution, as they had the feeling it was to easy ‘just out of the studio’.



(C) Gyan Panchal courtesy Frank Elbaz Gallery



I also liked the photo work ‘The Lovers III’ of 2008 shown at Kamel Mennour, Paris: It was by Zineb Sedira. She is a French-Algerian artist educated and based in London.




(C) Zineb Sedira courtesy Kamel Mennour Gallery


There was also a conceptual work by the French collective Kolkoz (consisting of Mr. Sammuel Boutruche and Mr. Benjamin Moreau).


After video games and virtual reality they now focus on the context of art: If only the context defines that there is art, the art itself is not necessary anymore. Or is actually the frame. Interesting.


Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, Paris, sold already one or the works on the first day of the fair for $ 20.500.



(C) KOLKOZ courtesy Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery


The Zeno X Gallery of Antwerp, Belgium, showed an interesting Dutch painter: Kees Goudzwaard. His small oil paintings showed abstract paintings that seemed to be still wrapped at first sight. Then you realize the ‘wrapping’ is also part of the abstract painting.


He refers to the classic trompe l'oeil painting and blends it with abstract painting. I like his pictures very much, as they bring in these two realities within one painting.



(C) Kees Goudzwaard courtesy Zeno X Gallery


Some dealers of the modern part on pier 92 were envious about the still better sales of the contemporary section. I think there were 4 main reasons:


  • Difficult access from pier 94 to 92
  • The quality of modern art offered was not up to Art Basel standards
  • Modern section was new
  • It was a mix of modern and contemporary


There were two works I kept in mind:


The New York based Nicholas Robinson Gallery offered the George Condo painting ‘The Schizzo’ of 1996 for $ 350,000. I  liked this work - I just don’t think a painting of 1996 is already ‘classic modern’…


I have always admired the work of George Condo: His old-master technique. His backgrounds alone would make perfect abstract paintings. The wickedness and the psychological complexity he puts into his imagined portraits. He truely advanced portraiture in the last 20 years.



(C) George Condo courtesy Nicholas Robinson Gallery


The Italian Gallery Studio la Citta showed an untitled work of 1973 by the Italian artist Pierpaolo Calzolari. He participated in Documenta 5 of 1972 and Documenta 9 of 1992. I always liked arte povera because of its sensual quality.



(C) Pierpaolo Calzolari courtesy Studio la Citta Gallery

Now in general there is much less speculation with contemporary art than a year ago. You can see this allready in this fair as there is for instants more focus on established positions within art history.



I can understand some art dealers' urge to make quick money.


But in the long run it will be better if there is connoisseurship and reasonable collecting rather than short term speculation by art investment funds and the like.



by UGL.




Read more about Pulse art fair New York 2009


Read more about Scope art fair New York 2009


Read more about Volta art fair new York 2009


Read more about Art Basel 2008















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