The Armory Show 2002, Feb. 22-25, 2002, at Piers 88 and 90 in New York City.
The Armory Show 2002 opened last Thursday on the wings of a balmy spring-like evening, a stark contrast to last year, when a massive snowstorm had elegant women navigating the sloshy streets in their Blahniks.
February with its fair air, and the fair itself, has brought a collective sigh of relief to many dealers, and for those participants who have put on a brave face, that trusted euphemism, "it's on reserve" was bandied about like a fool-proof mantra that would manifest an actual sale.
So the weather cooperated, and the fair organizers did too, with nicer booths and carpeting that made for comfortable peregrinations, and gave a much cleaner sight line. Dealers were relaxed and gracious as a result of less last minute stress in installing the works. Pier 88 was stronger than Pier 90, Berlin represented well, and Paris was in the house. Pound for pound the fair was overall better than ever.
One of the first booths at 88 is perennially hip 303 gallery, which featured a terrific new Inka Essenhigh painting called Toilet Paper Painting (Suburban Outcast) (2002). We see her aquamarine palette has shifted from the slick-surfaced One-Shot enamel ground to traditional oil, with varying degrees of flatness and gloss. A bunch of mutated blonde biker chicks are pulling on an unraveling roll of toilet paper-- speculate all you want on the painting's meaning, or rather the person who bought it for $30,000. A big work from photographer Thomas Demand was called The Collection (2002), an image of schmaltz singer Englebert Humperdink's framed gold record collection redone in the cardboard recreations that is the Demand hallmark. The work is in an edition of six.
Gorney Bravin & Lee presented a simple and crowd-pleasing installation of photograms by James Welling, selling these sublime Rothkoesque color fields at $7,500 per unique piece. At last count they had sold 15 works, with demand for more. Do the math; along with other inventory in the back, sales were creeping up towards the $150,000 mark.
One featured work at the Berlin gallery Arndt & Partner was Matterhorn (2002) by young stud Torben Giehler, a geometric representation of the Swiss mountain done up in green chartreuse and off-grays. It sold for $10,000. A lumpy khaki-greenish sculpture by 2002 Whitney Biennial participant Rachel Harrison was a nice foil to the Giehler. Harrison adds an idiosyncratic funny-bone humor to her work, often sneaking in an odd unexpected photographic image in the back of the pieces.
Another Berlin comer is Galerie Eigen & Art, which sold a work by the Leipzig-based painter Neo Rauch, Eis (2002), for $32,000 -- that's dollars, not euros. The artist's melancholic images are post-war DDR, where men and women enact dolorous activities as if machines.
Andrew Kreps gallery boasted sales of geometric abstractions by painter Ruth Root, who uses chocolate brown to great effect in her compositions. A new work shifts gear from loose-cornered overlapping grids to inert curvilinear motifs. The small painting went for mere $3,500. An electric green monochrome by photographer and curator Liz Deschenes looked handsome in the space, selling for $3,500 in an edition of three.
London dealer Anthony Wilkinson had a nice piece of inventory in painter George Shaw's Scenes from the Passion: The New Star (2002), a polished oil-on-canvas of a modernist brick building alongside a winding roadside.
CRG gallery showed "Thirteen Shooters," a Robert Beck installation in homage to Warhol's "Thirteen Most Wanted." The large-format ink-jet prints have a grainy color and represent reproduced media images of teenage gunmen, such as the infamous Columbine High School shooters. Only one of the six portfolio editions being broken up and sold individually; single pictures are $4,500.
Los Angeles gallery Mark Moore featured several color stills from Russ Meyer, the filmmaker who fetishized big breasts in B-movies. Look for an upcoming show of new and vintage Meyer prints from his oeuvre at Feigen Contemporary in New York.
Liebman Magnan, the small oasis of a space on 24th Street, featured in its booth a swirling Luca Buvoli sculpture made from amber colored plastic gel, wire, and plastic sip straws. It's dubbed a Flight Simulator, referring to the "Flying Project" series he showed at MIT's List Gallery, where his ongoing film series about a hapless comic-book hero called Not-a-Superhero explored the phenomenology of systematic sequence. Buvoli combines comic book storytelling, assemblage sculptural installations and 16mm movie making to convey his mythology.
Mark Bradford has had a good run with acclaimed shows at the Studio Museum of Harlem (in "Freestyle") and a solo at Lombard-Freid Fine Art. The part-time professional hairdresser can put his curlers to rest. At Lombard-Freid's booth, his large painting Nasty Put Some Clothes On (2002) sold for $9,500. It's a yellowish grid of paint and collage using small sheets of hair relaxant paper, coloring foil and hairstyling magazine cutouts, layered with glazed sheen on the surface. His riff on urbanism grooves and glistens. Also some new, modestly sized interior works from intrigue-photographer Deborah Mesa-Pelly were selling in an edition of five at $2,400. Look for some staged film-noir scenes in her next series.
Wohnmaschine gallery from Berlin featured photographs by Holly Zausner, in which the artist documents her own performance tossing a-loopy silicon female "figure" in the air on a Berlin rooftop. Titled G-Woman (2001), they come in an edition of five and are priced at $2,200.
Private dealer Carolina Nitsch had a fine booth filled with both unique works and editions, including E.V. Day's Cross Section of a Head on Collision, a work in ink on draughtsman paper, and a lovely suite of small Inka Essenhigh prints (edition of 25) selling in a set of four at $5,000.
Malachi Farrell is name to remember. His work was shown at the booth of Galerie Xippas, the Paris gallery which also shows Vik Muniz. Farrell's installations are raw and hard to sell, commenting on globalization and the mania for celebrity. One work at the fair comments on the dwindling fish population. Farrell is a rising star in Europe, hand-picked by Harald Szeemann to appear in the Expo Swiss 2002, opening May 13, and reaction to his work at the fair was strong.
Xippas also featured work by Momoyo Torimitsu, including two pink clay bunny sculptures that sold for $4,000. (Who could forget her performance piece on Wall Street, with a crawling robot dressed as a businessman). Also sold out were some Jeremy Dickinson paintings ranging in size and price from $3,000 to $5,000.
Tanya Bonakdar gallery is always a good draw at the fair; her booth featured a large new vertical painting by Thomas Scheibitz and a horizontal painting by Rotterdam-based Carla Klein (hot off an excellent solo show at Bonakdar's 21st Street gallery). Three-dimensional works included a new piece by the innovative L.A. sculptor Jason Meadows, and some small soft totemic floor pieces by Brazilian bon vivant Ernesto Neto.
Japanese dealer Tomio Koyama is another who never disappoints the itinerant fair wanderer, and this year he featured a booth installation devoted to the loose cartoon paintings of perennially hip Tam Ochiai, who shows in New York with Team.
Among the many coveted items at Barbara Gladstone were Matthew Barney film stills from Cremaster 3 (done in an edition of three), starring the master, Richard Serra. One image showed Serra in character as an intergalactic enfant-terrible standing imperialistically atop the pedestal of a sci-fi chamber.
The artist Nina Bovasso delivered a knockout diptych Untitled with Ladybugs (2002) at Clementine. Her bombastic and colorful loose cartoon forms (like a little Philip Guston crossed with Christian Schumann) are now much tighter, under control, and chock full of abstract forms. Among the dense cluster of pop color are a couple of small figures and a dog at the bottom of this eye-grabbing $8,500 painting. Also selling were some smart ink on paper drawings of some Marlboro men in silhouette by David Rathman.
Milan gentleman dealer Gian Enzo Sperone was selling a bold orange Tom Sachs duct tape painting King Heroin (2001). The animated image shows a bunny on a money tree, a wry commentary on the addiction of buying art. Also featured are a new red monochrome by Greg Bogin (who recently had a solo show at Mary Boone on 24th Street) and a mid-sized vertical painting from 2002 by Miles Monroe.
Also selling Tom Sachs was the happening Paris gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, who placed the artist's white foamcore sculpture titled Mop Bucket and Ringer (2001). It rests on a foamcore pedestal as well; the piece sold for a mop-wringing $30,000.
At some point on some cloudless day during the fair, the ubiquitous Dispatch ran into young art star Slater Bradley, who revealed that his Geneva gallery Art & Public had sold Ghost (2001) for $9,000. This grainy surveillance video was shot in Bradford, England. Projected in a wide-screen format, the work has muted colors and moody score reminiscent of 1970s French film-noir.
Lehman Maupin carried a nice laurel wreath triptych by Julian LaVerdiere, which was selling for $8,500. Look for LaVerdiere's upcoming show at the gallery and the imminent unveiling of his Tower of Light Project for the World Trade Center site with collaborator Paul Myoda.
The booth of Murray Guy, that small but influential gallery on West 17th Street in New York, featured three blue styrofoam wall sculptures by Shirley Tse and two small figurative paintings by Munro Galloway, who currently has a smart solo at the 17th Street space. A work from 2001 titled Gray Wall sold for modest $2,200. Also on view were some exquisite renderings on paper by Francis Cape of his fine functionless cabinetry. Cape's specific room interiors have the precision of Donald Judd and the refinement of Japanese porcelain.
Fredericks Freiser showcased smart young punk Zak Smith, who currently makes his solo debut (through Mar. 3) at the 22nd Street gallery. The edgy pictures at the fair are done in collage, acrylic and ink on photo paper. Smith depicts himself and his friends in an edgy over-the-top illustrative manner, with a pathos that reminds one of some earlier video-works by the aforementioned Slater Bradley. The booth also had work by old reliable John Wesley and 2002 Whitney Biennial participant Julie Moos, who had a work from her provocative photographic series on domestics and their employers.
Lucky Leo Koenig just sells and sells. This year he went big, carrying large works by Erik Parker and Les Rogers. Parker participated in the "Young Americans" exhibition at the Barbican in London. His work has graffiti-like inscriptions linking names and dates of art world personalities via intestinal shapes and ducts. Interest in the example at the fair was strong, and it sold for $27,000. As for Rogers, he is one busy hombre, preparing for a May show in Gotham. Currently he has a show up at KarlHeinz Meyer just outside of Frankfurt and an upcoming solo at Eleni Koroneou in Athens. In these new canvases he's gamely tackled the muscular abstract bravura terrain of Julian Schnabel in a work called Just (2002) that had a price tag of $13,000.
Erotica was present at the fair, ranging from Sarah Rossiter's luminous out-of-focus nude self-portraits at Thomas Erben to Margi Geerlinks surreal nude adorned with sets of lips all over her body at Stefan Stux and Tracy Nakayama's sensual ink and pencil drawings at Modern Culture at the Gershwin Hotel. Barry Neumann, who looked busy moving works by Nakayama, Billy Name and others, runs the East 27th Street storefront gallery.
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks & Projects had a strong booth with highlights being recent Nikki Lee photographs selling for $4,000-$6,000 in an edition of three. Paul Kasmin had a mojo Morris Louis dated from 1959 that looked as fresh as it was ethereal. Titled Para III, the acrylic stain painting gave all the young turks in the fair a run for their money.
Daniel Silverstein gallery featured a large randy drawing by Mark Dean Veca. You'll recall his colorful tripped out cafeteria project for "Greater New York" at P.S. 1. Look for an upcoming solo show at the 21st Street space. The booth also featured a fresh painting by John Newsom. There was a buzz for this picture, which showed an oversized wasp among giant flowers and fruit entangled in an octagonal grid of golden yellow.
Postmasters sold a mid-sized horizontal Christian Schumann gouache on paper for $7,500 and, for a sweet $18,000 moved a four-foot-square work by L.C. Armstrong, the painter who uses burned fuses to make the stems in her flower still lifes. A funny work from Jennifer and Kevin McCoy featured a metal suitcase containing a DVD player, LCD monitor and 50 DVDs of vintage loony-tune cartoons for the lonely traveler. Also on view were some small paintings by Steve Mumford, selling in the $1,500 to $1,800 range. The intellectual esthete currently has a breakthrough show at the 19th Street gallery. His big oils depict the animal kingdom and man's encroachments on the natural world, painted with florid detail and Hudson School finesse.
I-20 just opened a provocative new show by kinky Kiki Seror, the Amsterdam- and New York-based new media artist. A recent light-box edition sold for $10,000; also selling was a color triptych by photographer Spencer Tunick, in an edition of five for $12,000. Whitney Biennial 2002 participant Peter Sarkisian sold four of his small puddle installations at $12,000 each, leaving one left from the edition of five. The Royal Art Lodge, a Winnipeg, Canada, art collective led by Marcel Dzama, had small whimsical drawings selling at the bargain-basement price of $300 each.
Pierogi represented well with a big Steven Charles going for $15,000. A multiple sculpture of a distorted wooden chair by Whitney Biennial participant Robert Lazzarini went for $13,500. Appropriately hidden behind a wall was a work by the late great Mark Lombardi, Gerry Bull, Space Research Corp. and Armscor of Pretoria, South Africa, ca. 1972-1980, a graphite on paper from 1999 that is the fifth version of the piece. There is in all of his work a setting of the record straight, where the dots connect and the circles intertwine to tell the world a story for the ages, that is very much a topic of discussion in global geo-political affairs. With the wise counsel of Pierogi impresario Joe Ahmrein, the deceased artist's estate is being handled with kid gloves; much work is most likely to land in European institutions. It had just the right kind of exposure to boost this undervalued artist's very limited market.
Monday at 6 p.m. the hammer fell on the benefit auction at the booth of London gallery Victoria Miro, where a Chris Ofili painting was being sold to benefit the London zoo which houses the elephants who provide the yBa with his dung. Two bidders went down to the wire, with the winning bid of $105,000 made by a West Coast collector. Along with the rumored sale of Peter Doig's 1991 painting in the low six figures, the auction proved that demand for first-rate contemporary art continues unabated.