The Armory Show 2013: Seven Reasons Why Its Over

Armory Art Show 2013, opening night bar area
Armory Art Show 2013, opening night bar area

I’m not a basher of the art fairs.  I attend them dutifully when the contemporary art world descends on New York in March (and now May), and even migrated to Miami in December for Art Basel Miami Beach, where I insanely traversed 10 art fairs—some twice—during those four days.

The fairs, at a glance, provide a snapshot of the current art world trends, interests and work that is being produced and consumed.  I see the value.

So, like I said, I’m not a hater.  I enjoyed the Armory: Focus section a lot, by the way. And the Armory Show has risen from the ashes years ago when it was a tiny fair in the Gramercy Hotel and grew to the behemoth on the West Side piers.

But its time has come. The Armory is in trouble these days, and the 2013 edition is proof.

Here are seven reasons why the Armory Show is over.

Dearth of Big Galleries

The big galleries have stayed away, especially in 2013.  The roster of participants reads like Art Miami almost, and includes many galleries that have been at lesser fairs such as Scope and Pulse as recently as last season.  I love seeing interesting work but the Armory had the star power draw that it no longer has.

The Frieze Effect

Upstart Frieze Art Fair New York, although an upstart fair of only a year old, it seems to have greatly impacted the Armory Show.  It’s more obscure location became its asset and made attending an art fair a mini reprieve from the City.  The work was exemplary last year and look for the 2013 Frieze Art Fair New York to be even stronger now that people know about it.

Pier 92 is Secondary

Maybe I was tired, but secondary market was blooming on Pier 92, and it just looked like merch to me.  The carpet continued to make it seem like a depressing showroom.  Not a great place to see work.  And the quality seemed much lower this time around.

The Merchandise Mart-ization

Purchased a five years ago, MMPI, the parent company of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, has been in charge of the Armory Fair. According to Galleriest NY, Louise Blouin has been in talks to purchase the Armory, so we’ll see.  Although the Mart recently trimmed the number of galleries, they initially expanded the fair to unmanageable proportions, and might have underestimated managing it.

American/New YorkFocused

Recently, the Armory has had less of an international presence.  The result has been a very American and New York focus.  The reason?  See 2 above.

Poor Location

It’s been at the Hudson River and 54 Street for years, but it is still extremely hard to get to.  Cab lines remain long, and the shuttle buses this year still seem very erratic.  Walking from the subway is a chore, especially with the prospect of standing for another two to six hours.

The Interwebs

This year introduced a preview of work available before the fair opened.  As more and more work becomes available online, there is less of a reason to be first on line as the fair opens.  Look for more transactions in general to occur on the web, which could impact all the fairs.


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