Eli Broad in the House. John Waters in the House. Armory Arts Week.

I keep wondering if it’s a first line or a last line that this is not a crowd you want to be stuck in an elevator with.

Barkley Hendricks, not Kehinde Wiley

Armory Arts Week is New York’s March art fair stravaganza now in year 14, and kicked off yesterday with a press preview starring Paul Morris and Glenn Lowry smiling (sort of), special VIP access in the noon hour, Pommery champagne being poured under a neon sign (art project) reading SCANDIVANIAN PAIN, and legions of black tee-shirted Staff stamping the paper giveaways in the Nordic focus section. Word eagerly received among New York press reporting brisk sales and confabs between Thelma Golden and Theaster Gates (among others), included the wider aisles for perusing, and bright yellow furniture for sitting. The latter that the design firm in charge of the 2012 Armory Show’s look, Bade Stageberg Cox, reported had been street chairs that they had accumulated over the year, then stamped with the locus and date of the find, then painted in bright taxicab yellow.

New work by Nick Cave

Okay. Observer.com reported super brisk sales on day one, including a crowd gathered around Theaster Gates, whose performance of VC-seeking and art-making in process was generating reserves, a fair name for those half-moon red sticker things indicating WANT-THAT, gotcha. Something to do with Theaster Gates’s ethos of time meant it was not so easy to just show up to pony up $40k for a project not completed yet.

First-day sales included a Kehinde Wiley painting for $135,000 at Sean Kelly, and everything at Zwirner.

While fair director Paul Morris had stressed that a lot of 1970s aesthetic could be seen at the fair (perhaps thinking of the Happenings show at Pace in Chelsea), this was perhaps most true of the projects section in which a man, Eisenberg, sleeping on site in a rumpled bag, echoed Chris Burden in spirit if not letter (but was the Pommery bottle a mere bit of unintentional irony?). I kept thinking of Breaking Bad and Walter White’s street aka, Heisenberg.

For anyone wanting to know the rumpus on the money, ArtMarketMonitor, on sales, here. Andres Serrano’s new body of work, Anarchy, was on show at Edward Tyler Nahem but strange how hardly anybody (else) has mentioned that. The Jack Shainman-Sean Kelly-Paul Kasmin nexus made for big clutches of fancy people. Meanwhile on another aisle,  Chicago gallery owner Rhona Hoffman reported so much business sold that she was eating lunch only at 6 p.m. Bright green painting, Prada named in it. Paul Morris told me, regarding the end to the Chicago fairs, that “we had eight fair properties and were feeling the market was going to LA and New York – so we decided to put our energies on that.”


In the project space

In the project space

Call me crazy but the market mania is really just not so conducive to seeing art, although admittedly, maybe buying now and seeing later is more the point. To the point of new fair design, Paul Morris said this one is meant to be more “comfortable” and even more “luxurious.” 

Tired yet? Fair design meant to look “very New York,” per director Paul Morris.

As to the freebies, the Nordics embraced the notion of arte povera wholeheartedly. You could pick up in the focus section one of “two thousand” straight pins (conveniently sleeved) or pencils printed with the axiom, “Give Poetry a Try,” to escalator posters. Everything might be worth something, someday, even though the (free) printed pamphlet, A Symphonic Poem about the Financial Situation in Iceland, seemed about as overlooked as the installation of heads of Osama bin Laden.

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