With the arrival of Frieze looming in the landscape of New York art fairs, a new balance comes into play in the art market. Pulse and Red Dot have already turned their back to the Armory Show (Piers 92-94, March 8th-11th) to open their doors together with Frieze (Randall’s Island, May 4th-7th). They all will take advantage of the huge crowd of collectors to the city for the modern and contemporary art auctions at Sotheby’s and Christies. Nonetheless, the Armory Show is not raising the white flag just yet and it is facing the new competition with a new formula.
This year there are far less galleries than the previous edition, making the Armory look like a “boutique art fair”. The layout is completely new, redesigned by the Brooklyn based architectural studio Bade Stageberg Cox. There is also a new director, Noah Horowitz, the past director of the first online art fair (VIP) who shared with us his point of view of the new balance in New York’s art fairs.
This year on Pier 94, the number of the exhibitors has decreased to 150, down from 200 last year. Why?
In the last years the global trend has been to expand. This year at the Hong Kong art fair there were 260 exhibitors, up from 155 the previous edition. To stand out, we have decided to become a “boutique art fair,” offering a unique experience to the audience and maximizing sale opportunities for the exhibitors. For the first time in the history of the Armory Show we called an architectural studio to completely redesign the spaces of Pier 94. The VIP lounge is twice the size it was last year. Also, we have opened a restaurant and two coffee shops. Our objective has been to provide an exclusive experience, both exhibitors and visitors.
In May at Randall’s Island, the first New York edition of the British fair Frieze will open. Is this a serious threat for the Armory Show?
Competition makes things better. This has already happened in Europe where the primacy of Frieze has been an incentive for Fiac (the Parisian art fair) to change. For its latest edition, Fiac changed location becoming more appealing for an international audience. As far as we are concerned, even before Frieze officially announced that it would come to New York, we were thoroughly aware of the changes that needed to be made to the Armory art fair. And we made them so that the experience would be completely different from the one at Frieze.
Is it sustainable in the long term having two high level art fairs in the same city?
This is the question we all ask to ourselves. New York is certainly the world capital of the art market. But apart from this issue the underlying question is if the art market can keep on working this way, or if it is going to change. For the last 20 years the art market has been based upon temporary events like art fairs, auctions and biennials. If this system continues, then I think that the Armory Show is in very good shape. Last year we had a record of 65,000 visitors. With the new changes we implemented I think that the Armory positioned itself in an excellent spot to stand out from the other fairs.