Armory Show Sees Respectable Sales After Acquisition
September 13, 2023 - Sam Gaskin for Ocula
There's no perfect way to assess sales performance at an art fair. Galleries are under no obligation to report sales, and they're incentivised to report strong interest, making their artworks seem more covetable. The success of sales also depends on context. In a down market—which auction sales suggest is already here—average sales look good.
Artnet News noted a 'sense among fairgoers that attendance was light' but also that several dealers were 'upbeat' about VIP day. They said works on display were largely figurative, and perhaps 'safe'.
Beyond these contradictory vibe checks—and the lesser market indicator of celebrity sightings, which included Venus Williams, Beck, Chris Rock, Paul Rudd, and Rami Malek—we do have some facts.
The number of participating galleries at The Armory Show fell from more than 240 in 2022 to 'over 225' this year, though Executive Director Nicole Berry said this was a deliberate choice to balance spaciousness with 'good energy'.
Sales at the high end of the market included: 11 works by Howardena Pindell for prices up to $875,000 at Garth Greenan; a Lynne Mapp Drexler painting for $800,000 at Berry Campbell; and a large patinated bronze sculpture by Woody De Othello for $400,000 at Jessica Silverman.
Galleries at the Armory Show expressed some concern that they were competing with Frieze Seoul for the art world's attention, but were also worried that moving Armory to another date would create new challenges.
Frieze, which announced its acquisition of the Armory Show in July, said it had no plans to move either fair, though they're in a strong position to shape the fair calendar should they choose to.
Frieze now owns four of America's most prestigious contemporary art fairs—Frieze Los Angeles, Frieze New York, The Armory Show, and Expo Chicago (they acquired Expo Chicago at the same time as the Armory Show). In most markets, with less competition, you'd expect to see prices go up or services go down.
Asked whether that would be the case with Frieze's American fairs, a spokesperson said, 'We are sensitive to the needs of our galleries and have no plans to change our pricing structure or the services we offer as a consequence of these acquisitions.'
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