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ARMORY ACTION
Mar. 21, 2008 

Art-market jitters, anyone? With gyrating financial markets, collapsing investment banks and deleveraging hedge funds (whatever that is), this is no time for the international art market to show up in New York City. But with "Armory Show Week" on the way -- a collection of about ten art fairs, most running Mar. 27-30, 2008 -- it looks like we’ll see if high-end contemporary art is truly bullet-proof after all.

The Armory Show
Opening on spacious Pier 94 at 12th Avenue and West 55th Street on the Hudson River, the 10th installment of the Armory Show, Mar. 27-30, 2008, is more contemporary than ever, "featuring new art by living artists" from 150 top-tier contemporary galleries (no secondary market material allowed, though the random Warhol may slip by). The entryway to the fair, to make the point, is flanked by Emmanuel Perrotin, Hauser & Wirth, and Sean Kelly on one side, and White Cube, Zeno X and 303 on the other. General admission is $30 (up from $20 in 2007); students get in for $10.

Many of the dealers are featuring solo shows in their booths. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts presents a mock movie theater by Eleanor Antin, while the Paul Kasmin Gallery booth is set up as a county fair by Annette Lemieux, reportedly complete with a prize-winning cow. Elizabeth Dee Gallery is hosting a mini-retrospective of work by Adrian Piper.

The just-opened 2008 Whitney Biennial is replicated at the Armory Show, after a fashion, with works by many Biennial artists on view in the booths: William E. Jones at David Kordansky, Joe Bradley at Canada, Mitzi Pederson at Ratio 3, Carol Bove at Dennis Kimmerich, Phoebe Washburn at Zach Feuer, William Cordova at Arndt & Partner, Amanda Ross-Ho at Cherry and Martin, Walead Beshty at Wallspace, Corey McCorkle at Stella Lohaus, Edgar Arceneaux at Praz-Delavallade, Michael Queenland at Harris Lieberman, and Matt Mullican at Tracy Williams. Susanne Vielmetter has five artists from the biennial: Edgar Arceneaux, Jed Caesar, Alice Koenitz, Rodney McMillian and Ruben Ochoa.

Graphics for the art fest are done by veteran abstractionist Mary Heilmann and schlock-maestro John Waters, whose brightly colored designs mark the show’s tickets, posters and advertisements. The artists have also made benefit prints for the fair, starting at $1,500 each, to raise funds for the Pat Hearn and Colin de Land Cancer Foundation and the Pat Hearn and Colin de Land Acquisition Fund at The Museum of Modern Art.

Both Heilmann and Waters were associated with the galleries of Hearn and de Land, the married art dealers who helped found the Armory Show in 1994 and who died within a few years of each other (in 2000 and 2003, respectively). Art insiders will like the conversation that Heilmann and Waters recorded together on a pilgrimage to the dealers’ former home in Provincetown, Mass., featured on the Armory website. They lovingly describe Hearn and de Land as "two cult leaders that fell in love."

Pulse, Bridge, Volta
Meanwhile, British fair organizer Will Ramsay and fair director Helen Allen may have axed Pulse London, which debuted last year opposite the Frieze Art Fair, but Pulse New York, Mar. 27-30, 2008, is on the upswing, with almost 100 exhibitors (an increase from about 60 last year). The fair relocates from the Gramercy Park Armory (this year occupied by the Caskey & Lees New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show) to the even more spacious Pier 40, just off the West Side Highway at West Houston Street.

Pulse has an impressive line-up of special events, ranging from the cutting-edge to the kooky. Among these are a video and technology program titled "Pulse Play>," organized by MIT List Visual Arts Center curator Bill Arning; "Pulse Pause," a reading room designed by MFA candidates at Parsons The New School for Design; and a "Children’s VIP Lounge" designed by Jenny Marketou and billed as "a space for small collectors and young children age 5-14." Admission is $15, $10 for students and seniors.

Two new high-voltage fairs are also throwing their hats into the ring for Armory Show Week 2008. The Bridge Art Fair finally makes the leap to New York, at long last arriving in the Big Apple after having expanded from its roots opposite Art Chicago to include Miami Beach and London editions. It presents 57 galleries in the 23,000-square-foot Waterfront building in Chelsea at 222 12th Ave., one-time home of the Tunnel nightclub and more recently site of the Editions/Artists’ Book Fair.

In addition, Bridge is touting a new themed approach, for which each successive incarnation focuses on the art of one continent, kicking things off with "Special Focus: Asia" (and portending exactly six installations until art fans can expect "Special Focus: Antarctica"). The 14 participating galleries hail from China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. Bridge is also teaming up with make-up boutique Shu Uemura, and promises a "Shu Uemura Art of Hair VIP Lounge." Entry to the opening night "Homage to the Tunnel" reception, hosted by Amanda Lepore is $25; admission is $10 at other times.

Of similar scale is the new Volta NY, Mar. 27-30, 2008, a spin-off of the celebrated Art Basel satellite fair that now comes to 7 West 34th Street, just a stone’s throw the Empire State Building, in a showroom space owned by Merchandise Mart (which recently purchased Volta and the Armory Show). The exhibition is billed as a curated "Solo Project Art Fair" with the title "The Eye of the Beholder." It offers 53 artists selected by the team of Amanda Coulson and Christian Viveros-Fauné.

Look for the likes of William Pope L., Melanie Schiff and Ena Swansea at Volta, as well as a special showcase of Russian video art curated in the elevators by Alisa Priudnikova and Lee Wells and a line of limited-edition artist designed T-shirts from the likes of Amy Chan, David Shrigley and the Royal Art Lodge. Volta NY, of course, has special interest as being the curatorial endeavor that got Viveros-Fauné banned from writing for the Village Voice, because of perceived conflict of interest. Was it worth it?

Admission to Volta is $10, $8 for students. Look for the special shuttle bus ferrying visitors from the Armory to Volta and back, one fruit of the Merchandise Mart art-fair acquisition binge.

Scope New York, more
Concurrently, Scope New York, Mar. 26-30, 2008, returns to its custom-designed pavilion in Lincoln Center, shrinking this year from 65 to 50 exhibitors and billed as an "invite-only" affair (it features mainly the regulars from other Scope incarnations). In the past, Scope has brought an especially free-wheeling spirit to Armory Show Week, and this year promises to be no different.

Among the supremely groovy pieces of special programming run through the fair is A.T.T. Vegetable Oil Taxi, an ode to alternative transportation by Carissa Carman, which consists of a taxi that takes passengers to any destination (within 30 blocks of the fair) in exchange for gifts. Another highlight is Monkey Town, an installation that promises to bring the "hotel back in the art fair" (Scope began as a hotel fair), offering three comfortable single-occupancy rooms in which visitors can enjoy "art experiences" courtesy Antoine Catala, Mariana Ellenberg and Secret Project Robot. And finally, be sure to see What the Flock?!, an installation by Rare gallery artist Johnston Foster depicting a flock of seagulls exploding after having eaten Alka-Seltzer tablets, "a metaphor for human’s tendency toward a herd mentality" -- always a trenchant theme during fair weekend and/or economic crises.

Tickets for Scope’s "first view" on Mar. 26 are $100, with proceeds benefiting the Museum of Arts and Design. General admission is $15.

Speaking of hotel fairs, even as older fairs have moved to their own quarters, still newer franchises have checked in. The Art Now Fair, recently seen in Miami Beach, is setting up shop at the Thirty Thirty Hotel at 30 East 30th Street, with 28 galleries ranging from New York’s 798 Avant Gallery and Geneva’s Analix Forever to the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Ugallery, an online portal for emerging artists. Meanwhile, at the nearby Park South Hotel at 122 E. 28th Street, the Red Dot Fair offers 50 exhibitors, including Denise Bibro Fine Art (New York), L.A. Contemporary (Los Angeles), MMGaleries (San Francisco) and Newzones (Calgary), as well as a truly impressive program of panel discussions.

Another initiative of note is L.A. Art, which makes its third appearance during Armory Week this year, returning to showcase a roster of 15 Los Angeles galleries, flexing their commercial muscles at the Altman Building at 135 West 18th Street. Participants include Shoshana Wayne, Western Project, Roberts & Tilton and Lightbox / Kim Light Gallery.

And while you are in the neighborhood, check out the DiVA fair of video art. DiVA consists of nine shipping containers scattered throughout Chelsea, each featuring a self-contained exhibition put together by individual dealers. DiVA is offering a curated program of videos at White Box, and on Mar. 27 promises a block party held in its own honor along West 26th Street, 7-10 pm.

And farewell to Fountain
Finally, at least one player has bowed out of the 2008 frenzy, albeit a small one. Fountain, the fair launched in 2006 by a trio of hip Williamsburg galleries, announced on its website that it has put its 2008 New York edition on ice. Fountain New York, which in 2007 featured Capla Kesting, Ch’i Contemporary Fine Art, Front Room, Steven Gagnon, Glowlab, McCaig-Welles, New Improved Art, Outrageous Look and Yum Yum Factory, received positive press for its spirited take on the art-fair concept [see "Tossing in the Fountain," Feb. 27, 2007] but declared that this time around "the scene is over-run." It does expect to appear later in 2008 in Miami for Art Basel week, and promises a return to New York in 2009.

Fountain founder David Kesting added in an email that he hoped the hiatus made art enthusiasts appreciate Fountain’s less corporate approach. "People appreciate independence more," he wrote, "when they don’t have it."


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