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by Meredith Mendelsohn
|It's the final day of Armory Show 2000 (Feb. 25-28) at the New North Pavilion of the Jacob Javits center in New York City, and everyone is A) flush with success B) tired and grumpy C) sick of answering questions from journalists. Yep, you guessed it, all of the above. In fact, almost all of the dealers I spoke to either completely or nearly sold out their booths. One dealer described collectors as running through the fair with shopping carts.
It's hard to believe that just two years ago the Armory Show -- named after the 69th Regiment Armory on 26th Street, the site of the provocative 1913 fair as well as last year's version of the event -- was set up in the rooms of the Gramercy Park Hotel. A total of 95 international dealers were on hand this time and though small in comparison to the majors -- Art Basel and ARCO draw over 250 dealers each year -- the Armory Show could well supercede Art Chicago as America's most important contemporary art fair. Several galleries, like Lisson of London, said their successes in New York were such that they probably wouldn't attend Art Chicago, May 12-15, 2000 -- usually a standard in the art fair circuit. (Not to mention, English dealers may want to stay in London that week for the opening of the Tate Modern.)
In its brief history, the Armory Show has become the art-world's most international event for avant-garde dealers. U.S. galleries included 43 from New York, six from Los Angeles, two from Chicago and one from San Francisco. Internationally, 14 dealers made the trip from Germany, seven from London, five from Switzerland, four from Paris, three from Vienna, two from Sydney and one each from Stockholm, Dublin, Tokyo, Rome, Madrid, Copenhagen, Antwerp and Sao Paolo.
In a nutshell, collectors flock to the Armory because of the freshness of the art. Much of the work on view is dated 1999 and 2000, and though many of the names may be familiar, much of it has never been exhibited before.
London dealer Jay Jopling/White Cube, for example, has new work by "sickos" (as New York mayor Rudy Giuliani put it) Jake and Dinos Chapman -- three small brown sculptures in polyester resin of tiny maimed and bloody GI-Joe-like figures piled up in battle, priced between £4,000 and £12,000 each (£1 = $1.65). They're quite charming, actually, and sold early on opening night.
Also on view at Jopling is Steven Gontarski's elegant Speed II, a silver life-size fiberglass Neo-Biomorphic take on the female form, which sold for around £16,500. Damien Hirst's latest work seemed a subtle jab at his critics -- a very sweet, giant pink canvas heart with (real) butterflies stuck to it. Sold for £125,000, it whispered "dead carcasses are okay when they're pretty little butterflies, right?"
The appeal of Young British Artists refuses to wane. Sadie Coles HQ from London filled her booth exclusively with photographs and an installation by Sarah Lucas. Sold in separate pieces ranging in price from £18,000 to £28,000, almost all of the installation went to European museums and private collectors -- even though several pieces incorporate real meat. One chair features a supermarket chicken that needs to be changed every day or so.
Not all of Saatchi's stable is as well-known as Jopling and Sadie Coles' crew, though maybe they should be. Nina Saunders, for instance, who showed in a YBA exhibition several years ago, makes luxurious yet uninhabitable furniture, like an outrageously lopsided leather armchair of hallucinogenic proportions on view in the booth of Stockholm gallery Andréhn-Schiptjenko. A lighthearted and wry commentary on the stifling confines of the bourgeois interior, Saunders' chair is right out of Alice and Wonderland. It's priced at $14,000.
London dealer Stephen Friedman has the perfect interior accompaniment to such a chair -- British artist Kerry Stewart's Drops of Lovlieness (1999). Fake purple daisies and ivy suspended in small, solid puddles of resin, they'd make fantastic table centerpieces. Laying on the floor of Friedman's booth, looking a bit like a forest nymph's vomit, they're made in an edition of 20 and each cost $1,600.
One of the most talked about booths at the fair belongs to the New York gallery Greenberg Van Doren, which features Katy Grannan's photos of nude women. (The other half of the gallery, Lawrence Rubin, chose not to participate.) Grannan placed an ad in a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., newspaper seeking models willing to pose either nude or clothed in their own homes for $50 per session. Titled Poughkeepsie Journal, the result is a series of crisp, large-scale color prints showing women in their late teens and early 20s standing rather awkwardly in their bedrooms and living rooms. The nude portraits represent a tender investigation of vanity and sex appeal among young middle-class American women, with one small-town oddity -- they all seem to have gone to the same bikini waxing salon. Each photo, in an edition of six, is $2,000.
Also on the photo-front, the Denver Art Museum bought a Paul Smith print from the series Make My Night (1999) for $3,500 from London dealer Robert Sandelson. Smith, who has showed at the Saatchi Gallery in London, makes images ranging from bar scenes to war scenes, all digitally manipulated to be peopled with various personas he poses for himself. Sandelson also informed me that another one of his featured artists, glamorous club kid Micha Klein, who makes photos of beautiful guys and gals in fantastic environments -- somewhere between David LaChapelle and Mariko Mori (see the October 1999 cover of Flash Art) -- was just offered a show at Mary Boone later this year.
There seems to be less video work at the Armory this time around, though the big star of the show is Marco Brambilla's walk-in installation at New York gallery Henry Urbach Architecture. Titled Cyclorama (2000), it's a 12 by 12 foot cylindrical white room with eight video monitors mounted horizontally in the wall. Playing on each screen is a shot of an empty table and the view out the window of revolving rooftop restaurants in eight cities -- Montreal, Toronto, New Orleans, St. Louis, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle. The videotapes are coordinated so that the sun rises and sets at the same time in each city, as if the whole thing were a single panorama of an urban skyline. A soundtrack of sampled rooftop noises plays in the background. It's $35,000 for the DVDs and installation (room included).
Not everything was so pricey, and there were some works by lesser known artists. Galeria Carmargo Vilaça of São Paolo quickly sold out four small drawings for $350 each by Brazilian artist Mauro Piva. Using colored ink, Piva, who is in his early 20s, rendered in fine detail what seems to be a depressed and anxious man in his home. In one image he buries his face in his bed, and in another, he hides under a table.
Also worth noting are Lisa Yuskavage's small new sex-kitten paintings, more pornographic than ever, which all sold for $15,000 on the first night of the show at New York gallery Marianne Boesky; Guy Limone's One Doctor for Every 450 Americans -- hundreds of inch-high figures waiting for a doctor lined up on a tiny shelf against the wall -- at Paris gallery Emmanuel Perrotin; disturbing drawings of airplane interiors with hyper-calm people wearing oxygen masks by Karen Yasinsky at New York gallery Casey Kaplan; a $6,400 pink knit bondage-esque face mask for two called Secret Kiss (1999) by Kathy Prendergast at Kerlin Gallery of Dublin; and finally, Deborah Mesa-Paley's creepy, staged color photos of a girl crawling through the torn walls of a house at New York gallery Lombard-Freid, who sold out its booth twice this year. Ah, the benefits of being at home.
MEREDITH MENDELSOHN is associate editor of Artnet Magazine.