Mid-level collector Niel Frankel owns 77 works by Karen Kilimnik. Along with Kilimnik collector Hubert Neuman and 303's Lisa Spellman, Karen's dealer, Frankel is essentially a market-maker in Kilimnik's work.
Niel also invested heavily in Thomas Ruff's photographs, buying a number of Ruff's iconic porn images from David Zwirner a few years back for $14,000 apiece. Ruff's new editioned pieces of the Twin Towers just opened at Zwirner's Chelsea space, and sell for $120,000 each.
Yet even as savvy a buyer as Frankel is barely a blip in the collector penumbra of Aby Rosen, Stephen Cohen and other sheiks and pashas. Thus, Niel symbolizes the volcanic pressure to buy, building upwards at this year's Armory Show, for there are dozens of collectors just like Frankel prowling the piers, ready to purchase just about anything.
Only yesterday we were sitting in the offices of celebrity podiatrist Dr. Rock Positano, preparing our feet for the pier preamble.
"Say hello to my assistant, Janine Bruno, Charlie, her father John is in charge of setting up the booths at the Armory Show."
We chuckled, "Well, Janine, just about every rich collector in New York today wants to meet your dad."
Such is the definition of a frenzy. Is anything or anyone at this year's Armory blast worth the insanity?
Well, perhaps the beautiful view of the Hudson River from Pier 92, which brought to mind Wallace Stevens' remark that "they don't build churches by the sea, because no one would pay attention to the sermon."
Inside this makeshift church of art, there are fewer gems and much redundancy. Jack Pierson Self-portraits of juicy young hunks, the aforementioned Thomas Ruff porn pieces, and Alex Katzes dot booth after booth. At Kenny Schachter's stand we priced a 1964 Katz portrait of Ada at $350,000.
"Who bought it, Kenny?" we asked.
"I did!" replied the ex-New Yorker.
A few quirky masterpieces emerged from the decorative, photo-dominated heap. Best in show, by far, is Kevin Landers' eye-popping rack of colored bags of "potato chips" -- in fact they're filled with Styrofoam -- from Dallas' Angstrom Gallery, priced at $20,000.
The classics are few and far between, reflecting the saturation of the market, such as Donald Judd's 1984 Lascaux wall piece at D'Amelio Terras and a gorgeous pink and green 1976 Dan Flavin at Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Another super standout is a gorgeous Wim Wenders' sunset by the sea at James Cohan, priced at $36,000, edition of six. This is a must-buy.
The eccentricities are far rarer than at previous Armory Shows, again indicating, Goldilocks, that the cupboard is bare. The unknown Jocelyn Hobbie stands out with the painting Pregnant Woman in Leopard Panties at the Jack Tilton Gallery booth. Another weird one is P.S.1 star Mathilde ter Heiting's S&M DVD and self-portrait sculpture of the artist contemplating herself in a bloody brick room, in which she bounces off the walls, at Arndt + Partner.
Another rare bit of strangeness is Guy Ben-Ner's DVD of his family holding an ostrich fight at Postmasters, priced at $6,000, edition of six.
As always, it was great to see old friends on the midway. Lisa Ruyter, in from Vienna, sported a spare Colin Deland t-shirt, one of the best works on view.
Dealer Carolyn Alexander lamented that she and Paula Cooper have to remodel their flats in a building in which Amy Sacco's new club Bette allegedly blew a gasket.
"How dare Amy tell the New York Post that it's not her fault," fumed Carolyn.
Overall, for the Neil Frankels of Collector World, there is far less desirable product at the 2005 Armory Show than in the past, totally understandable, as everyone already owns everything.
Armory visitors might try something novel instead. They might visit some art galleries!
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).