On the 2014 Armory Show

Holland Cotter’s recent review of the Whitney Biennial included a line that stuck with me: “I left feeling pretty much the way I do when I leave an art fair, full but empty, tired of dessert, hungry for a sustained and sustaining meal.”

I usually feel a little empty after art fairs. As though–to borrow a statement from Sherlock Holmes (and a concept from dear friend and author Maria Konnikova)–I’ve seen but not observed the objects or experiences around me. The Armory Show is consistently one of the most overwhelming fairs I attend. And sheer numbers make it hard to see art: the number of visitors, number of galleries, and number of different artworks on view all conspire to draw attention away from any individual object.

This year, I left the Armory Show exhausted and frustrated. I could barely edge through the crowds at Pier 94, let alone look at objects.

A few days later, with some time to digest, I realized that this frustration was trumped by some other, more lasting impressions.

Art fairs are terribly important for the art world and for galleries. They can connect clients and dealers, promote previously-unknown artists, and show the state of a particular art world at a given time. For me, art fairs are important because they make me hungry: for information, for understanding of artists I may not have previously encountered, and for in-depth viewing of individual objects away from the buzz of these dynamic and electric venues. They make me appreciate quiet time in a museum or gallery, standing face-to-face with an artwork. While Cotter’s “full but empty” statement speaks to the immediate aftermath of the show, the “hunger for a sustaining meal” can and should be the far more powerful–and far reaching–outcome.

With that, here are some snapshots of favorite artworks from the Armory Show:

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Nick Cave Soundsuits at Jack Shainman

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David Scher at Pierogi Gallery

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Michelangelo Pistoletto at Galleria Repetto

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George Widener at Ricco/Maresca Gallery

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Sol LeWitt and the Philadelphia Wireman at Fleisher Ollman Gallery

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Thornton Dial at Andrew Edlin Gallery

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Alice Neel at Aurel Scheibler