Oh, Armory, you reveled art tradition, why do you mislead me so? Under the light of serious aesthetic critique, you fail miserably, and yet as an anthropological study, you are charmingly predictable and cliche at the same time.
Despite the lackluster and mediocre reviews of this year’s Armory show qua art fair, it’s one of those events that perhaps you have to see it for yourself to process the let-down. In the meantime, what is lost in good art is made up for in an anthropological analysis of gallerists and attendees, i.e., people-watching. We have the the embellished gallerista-girls, polished serious gallerists, and young eager monitors. We have the loudly dressed hope-to-be artist-types, the naive boisterous hipsters, the perfectly coiffed Europeans, middle-aged Talbot-dressed women (some with oversized semi-precious stone necklaces), the polished-shoed, tapered-panted Eastern Europeans, and the understated, slim Asian gallery exhibitor from Seoul. The most prominent factor is whether one hopes to be noticed or not– and this appears to be the defining trait of both gallerists and attendees.
How did one define modern and contemporary in terms of dividing them into the two Piers? Cindy Sherman and Damien Hirst were one of a few artists who straddled both categories. Ah, but don’t spend too many brain cells on this questions– they sure didn’t.
Perhaps the only winning detail were a few pieces in the Nordic section, where you could pick up a cherry-flavored lollipop, pencils, and acupuncture needles. While playing Armory bingo (yes, plenty of cubes, Botero’s, and projections + object were found), another game was “where is this gallery from?” But perhaps that is too easy, because it is does not take long to distinguish Western from Eastern art (and further Japanese vs. Chinese vs. Korean), Scandinavian from German art, etc. So when that got boring, another interesting detail was to observe the different reactions from different gallerists in a multiple choice format:
A) attentive and professional
B) politely giving distance, but answering questions when addressed
C) boredom * aloofness combo
D) “So awesome, what afterparty should I go to? There are so many. Oh, it’s so great to see you here, so many people to say hi to, right?”
E) I spent three hours getting into this outfit, so unless you did so too, you don’t deserve my eye contact
Ah, now where were we? Right, the art. It’s hard to figure out what to pay attention to and it’s even worse when nothing is really calling your attention or interest to it. Perhaps it’s embarrassment of riches, but more often than not, it’s probably just an embarrassment of art. With some exceptions (a Robert Rauschenberg and Cindy Sherman there, a beautiful Sigmar Polke print), there was little to be seen that was stirring, fewer still that were sublime.