The Armory Show’s VIP Preview Opened With Brisk Sales and a Lot of Chatter About the Fair’s Future
September 8, 2023 - Eileen Kinsella for Artnet News
Gossip about recent art fair-industry consolidation was a major focus at the VIP opening day of The Armory Show, as art world denizens debated the impact of the Frieze acquisition of both Armory and EXPO Chicago earlier this summer.
For the near-term, and amid a buzzy opening that seemed to only be gathering momentum as the the day wound on (the fair runs until September 10), Armory Show executive director Nicole Berry was laser-focused. “I feel like this is just such a strong fair. And the response has been wonderful and supportive of that,” Berry told Artnet News a few hours into the opening.
However, this year’s fair, the Armory’s third appearance at the Javits Center, was a tonal downshift from 2022. The 225 exhibitors marked a drop from last year’s 240, and on day 1 there was a sense among fairgoers that attendance was light.
The broader art market correction that saw tepid at best (and disastrous at worst) auction results in New York this spring may now be manifesting in the primary market. Dealers at the VIP preview told Artnet News that sales were slower than last year. Sales figures are still trickling in, but beyond what works sell and for how much is the matter of what is for sale—some might characterize the bevy of figurative paintings on offer as evidence dealers are playing it safe.
To be sure, enthusiasm for art fairs practically piqued in 2022. It’s hard to compare to the mood of a year marked by jubilation that Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions were for the most part behind us—enthusiasm that surely juiced sales and attendance. Perhaps in anticipation of that, organizers purposefully shrunk the fair slightly this year, according to Berry.
“The fair is about nine percent smaller based on our own decision,” she said. “We felt like we wanted to bring it in a little bit. When we first started here at the Javits, we had really wide aisles and big spacious areas because of Covid. And now the beauty of this venue as opposed to the piers is…it’s not cramped and crowded. But we sill wanted good energy and I think we found the right balance.”
New York gallery Berry Campbell had a standout booth, a curated presentation of 12 postwar women artists. The gallery has a distinct focus on re-examining underrepresented women artists of the 20th-century. Gallery owner Christine Berry called it “an incredible day,” noting high demand for artists including Alice Baber, Bernice Bing, and Lynne Drexler.
Works by Drexler sold for $885,000 and $200,000; the artist, who has been drawing intense interest, will likely be the subject of a traveling institutional retrospective at some point in the near future. A work by Baber went for $200,000—Berry Campbell hopes to mount a solo show of the artist next year.
Later on in the day, the gallery let Artnet News know that a painting by Ethel Schwabacher had been sold for $195,000.
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