New York Art Fairs Return, Eyes Open and Fingers Crossed


Artworks are brought in from abroad, the showroom is equipped, and ticket sales kick off when it opens on September 9 for the Armory Show, set to be the first major American art fair to return amid the pandemic. New location in Javits Convention Center.

“We have to be ready for anything,” said Nicole Berry, the expo’s executive director, in a phone call. “We are holding this event and we have Plans A, B, C, D and E.”

When plans for the Armory Show came together earlier this year, Berry envisioned the fair as an anchor of the fall art season, symbolizing the art world’s triumphant return to face-to-face selling and gaming. It planned to open its event near full capacity, inviting thousands of visitors to view the works of nearly 500 artists presented by more than 200 galleries from 37 countries.

“We believe NYC will emerge stronger than ever from this pandemic,” said Berry. In that casedescribes the autumn season as “an important moment when the city’s cultural organizations reopen.”

Then came the summer resurgence of the coronavirus, stagnant vaccination rates and travel restrictions, preventing many galleries from participating in what is typically an economic engine in the art market. And earlier this month, several trade shows decided to cancel their shows, making the champagne and oyster-chipping celebrations of the past seem unlikely. The New York International Antiques Book Fair, the New York International Auto Show and PAD London, an art and design fair, have decided to discontinue their 2021 editions.

The Armory Show still plans to feature franchises like David Zwirner, Stephen Friedman, and Marianne Boesky, and showcase key artists like Wolfgang Tillmans, Deborah Roberts, and Jeffrey Gibson. But not everyone is on board. Nearly a quarter of its more than 200 exhibitors have delayed participation in the physical fair – even though they will be attending online – due to travel restrictions. Berry said the recordings of gallery representatives who were unable to attend would be transferred to next year’s edition.

Some European collectors who want to attend the fair have their own contingency plans. Alain Servais, a Belgian investment banker and collector, considered spending two weeks in Mexico to bypass travel restrictions in his home country to enter the United States. “It’s bullshit and something very few people can afford,” he said. “So for now, the American art world will be largely left alone.”

Sales from world art fairs reached an estimated $16.6 billion in 2019, representing approximately 43 percent of annual sales for dealers. Art Basel and UBS Art Market 2021 report. this percentage halved During the pandemic, more than 60 percent of the world’s art fairs canceled events and dealers reach customers online.

“When the vaccine first became widely available, it seemed like a button would flip and suddenly everything would be back — including at large public gatherings like trade shows,” said Natasha Degen, head of arts market research at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Events like the Armory Show will attract a core group of the art world, but not the wider crowds that have energized fairs in recent years.”

The Armory Show organizers say most ticket sales take place right before the event and without reservation, so it’s hard to say how crowded the showroom floor will be. The show welcomes about 54,000 people in a normal year during its run time, but the pandemic has prompted some health and safety measures that could limit crowds. These include a mask requirement inside the exhibit, time tickets, and proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of entering the Javits Center. Two other fairs that opened the same week adopted the same policies: Spring/December Art Show 625 Madison Avenue and Future Fair At 601 West 26th Street. However, those wishing to participate Independent Battery Marine Building and Art on Paper Must be vaccinated at Pier 36.

Despite setbacks and uncertainty, the Armory Show continues with a program that revises its model. Her new location Javits Center allowed the fair organizers to combine the modern and contemporary art departments under one roof. The fair is also making a greater investment in public art by launching a new program called Armory Off-Site, which commissions four artists to create works across the city with the help of municipal groups such as the Parks Department, the Hudson River Park Trust and the Hudson River Park Trust. Hell’s Kitchen Alliance.

One of its Off-Site programs is at Pier 64, where artist Katja Larsson will present “New Neo Classics,” a series of sculptures that fill everyday objects like a crumpled baseball cap with an ancient aura reminiscent of the shattered statues of ancient Egypt. Found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another Offsite work will feature a large trailer parked at Astor Place, where artists Johnny DeFeo and Aaron Zulpo, from a collective called the Guild of Adventure Painters, will host painting sessions with guest artists and share an exhibition of new works.

The Future Fair at Chelsea has rebuilt its program from the ground up after delaying its opening last year due to the pandemic. Almost half of the show’s hosts will not be able to attend, and new galleries will take their place. Of the new list of 34 exhibitors, 25 percent belong to people of color and half to women – a rare occurrence in the world of art fairs lacking diversity.

“We’ve been working on this since 2018 and it was a labor of love,” said Rachel Mijares Fick, one of the organizers of the Armory Show. “How are we going to get over this?” There were moments when we said

A similar question arose in the minds of other gallerists who had to decide whether or not to attend the Armory Show.

“It was disappointing to realize we couldn’t come this year,” said Nadia Gerazouni, owner of the Athens gallery. Growerdecided to join online. The Armory Show would be the dealer’s first physical show since the pandemic began and an opportunity to introduce their young artists to the American market. Some other galleries have decided to hire proxies to run their booths, but Gerazouni was skeptical. “There’s no way someone new can come in and do the gallery manager’s job,” he said.

Daniel Faria, a seller Based in Toronto, the Armory Show is determined to make a successful run for its artists. Last year, Jennifer Rose Sciarrino would be on the Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center when the program started. shifted focus due to the pandemic. This opportunity has been lost, but will have another chance to showcase it at the Armory Show.

“We have a responsibility to show you what you do,” said Faria, who was preparing to don an N95 mask on the showroom floor for safety.

“It’s not always true to say I’m 100 percent relaxed,” he added. “But at this point, we’ve decided to go, and the Armory Show will have to cancel itself before we go.”


Armory Show on September 9-12; Tickets are available at

Independent Art Fair, September 9-12; tickets are available at

Future Fair, September 9-12; Tickets are at

Art on Paper, September 9-12; Tickets are at

Spring/December Art Show, 8-13 September; tickets are at


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