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The massive art fair isn’t just for billionaires


  • Frank Stella, "The Honor and Glory of Whaling," Hollis Taggart Galleries Photo by Adel Gorgy

  • A haunting woodblock print by Edvard Munch at the Armory Show 2016 Photo by Adel Gorgy

  • Emil Nolde's radiant sunset "Schwüler Abend" ca. 1946 Photo by Adel Gorgy

Tired feet were a small price to pay for the chance to see the latest art from 36 countries in one weekend. The Armory Show, in its 22nd year, filled Piers 92 and 94 from March 3rd through the 6th with over 200 galleries and thousands of works by contemporary and modern artists.

For a few days each year, those who make the art world hum come to New York to create new buzz. The Armory Show’s galleries brought blue chip names, breakout artists, and new discoveries to tempt moguls, movie stars, and millionaires (billionaires, too) and lots of other art lovers. If you missed the Frank Stella show at the Whitney, you had a chance to pick one up here. If you loved the Munchs at the Neue Galerie, there was a whole wall for sale at John Szoke.

While the opening night featured glitterati-studded, paparazzi-flooded parties, after that, it was still packed, but sane. Collectors, museum directors and curators make their lists and scout for deals the way many of us shop at department stores. Price tags ranged from under $1,000 well into the millions. Polite, knowledgeable gallerists were happy to discuss artists and works and answer questions.

There were cubist faces by Picasso and bold, proud portraits by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley. Ruth Asawa’s sculptures were delicate and airy. Alma Thomas is an underappreciated African-American abstractionist whose paintings beam with color and joy. One of Alice Aycock’s masterful, swirling sculptures recalling paper caught in the wind from the series that graced Park Avenue in 2015 was presented at New York’s Marlborough Gallery. Stockholm’s Wetterling Gallery brought a selection of David Hockneys, Robert Rauschenbergs and James Rosenquists. Federico Herrero’s “Barco,” 2015, at Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf, had the simple geometry and muted tones of a Morandi, but inflated to monumental size. You could find gorgeous Morandis at Galleria d’Arte Maggiore. Emil Nolde’s lush sunset in red at Galerie Ludorff drew me from across the room, despite its modest dimensions. So did a pairing of two de Kooning abstractions at DC Moore. Donald Ellis Gallery presented an astonishing collection of Plains Indian ledger drawings that were an eloquent, evocative surprise.

There were portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, photographs, sculptures, installations, a pink rocket ship, dolls and political comments made in paint, paper, marble, steel, fabric, computers and even lint. The Armory Show features a curated section each year; this year’s was a focus on contemporary artists and galleries from Africa. Fourteen galleries and dozens of artists and curators made the journey. Echo Art, from Lagos, Nigeria, presented a series of large photographs by Namsa Leuba that merge aspects of portraiture, dance and fashion into colorful, arresting images.

New York is the cultural capital of the world. Every artist on the planet wants to figure out how to get to Carnegie Hall. More than 200 organizations brought their best right to us. If you haven’t been to an art fair, you might think they’re not for you—too elitist, too perplexing. But they’re not. They’re great, condensed ways to see new things, think new thoughts, and enrich your world.

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