What condition is the art world in right now? I don't think I really know -- no different than the rest of the economy? If I were to guess from my observations of the art fairs in New York this past week, several prominent galleries chose not to take part, most obviously Mathew Marks, and the frantic sales pitch of past years was not happening, although there were some, judging from the red dots and conversations with dealers.
This year's Armory Show was bigger than ever, expanding from its contemporary roots on Pier 94, to include a modern component on the adjoining Pier 92. I slowly walked the aisles with my eyes wide open, trying not to miss anything -- no chance. With some 200 booths of art vying for my short attention span, plus a mosh of dealers, staff, and assorted art grazers, I was easily distracted. But that's part of the fun of fair week.
Other than the really short skirts on some of the gallery assistants, the bright side of a sluggish economy may be the availability of rarely, if ever seen works by some of my favorite artists. Two Boys Canoeing, a small oil by David Park at the San Francisco gallery Hackett-Freedman was probably the most memorable image of the week for me. It just came on the market from the Park family collection. There's always an Alice Neel portrait that I've never seen, like this one at Nicholas Robinson; there were several others scattered around the pier. Robinson also had a small drawing by Giacometti, which was listed for $325,000 and an Elizabeth Peyton for $25,000.00 -- nice to see but those don't seem like slumping economy prices to me.
It's rare see a Morandi painting, but with a retrospective touring (now at the Phillips Collection), it wasn't too surprising to see a landscape at the Verona gallery Studio Lucita. There were small Alex Katz paintings from the 50s and recent billboard-sized figure studies. He's a very good painter, but as I've mentioned before, his cruder early 60s paintings, for me, are the best.
One work that seems to be popping up in posts and news articles is Tony Mateli's Double Meathead at Leo Koening's booth. I was waiting for the rotting meat smell to hit me as I approached, but thankfully it's painted aluminum and bronze, very life-like and very creepy. I liked Kara Walker's cut-outs and the wall full of Amy Silmans and and a big Mark Bradford at Sikema Jenkins. Hans Josephsohn's bronze works at Hauser+Wirth were keepers, as were the three 70's paintings by the great Tom Nozkowski at Pace (1, 2, and 3).
Kenny Scharf is making a comeback this year, kinda, with a booth full of work at Paul Kasmin, three large murals painted on-site and a kooky golf cart he re-designed that was driven around by a donut-dispensing space man. (I bumped my head getting into the cart and later realized I was bleeding. This is hazardous work.)
Down on Pier 40 the Pulse Fair had a constant flow of visitors, although as with Armory, not the hordes of past years and sales were noticeably off. But not for a lack of good art on display. I liked the oversized notepad paper of Michael Scoggins's My Army Gun Will Protect You at Freight + Volume. Vladis Turner's fantasy bed Reception at Lyons Weir surely has at least one of your desires covered. Not only did the photographs in Jen Bekman's booth look great, she was online tweeting away. It was a nice perspective on the fair from an exhibitor: it's a lot of work to take part in a fair.
I've got to pay more attention to Kimberly Hart's work. Her piece Field Dress at Mixed Greens was nicely crafted with thoughtful detailing. Winkleman Gallery was well represented with work by gallery artists Ivan Ballen, Jennifer Dalton, Joy Garnett's paintings from her China Yangtze's Three Gorges Dam Project, and an Eve Sussman installation.
One of the few solo booth shows this year was Cordy Ryman's at DCKT -- especially liked the piece Split Bands for its simple elegance. Since I was just in Montreal a few weeks back I'm going to remember to visit Gallerie SAS on my next visit. They had a fantastic exhibit of Karine Giboulds titled Electronic Village -- questions of human dignity in difficult, sometimes oppressive conditions, in this instance, the electronics manufacturing industry in China.
I missed Michael Waugh's last exhibit The More I See of Men at Schroeder Romero, but luckily the Chelsea gallery and their booth at Pulse had some of the work on view. He uses micrography, a process that uses handwritten words to build up the image, in this instance, portraits of dogs. The type is pure politics, presidential reports on 9/11, Social Security, the Kennedy Assassination, political propaganda, all in obedient dog form.
Thursday evening a group of art bloggers -- Libby and Roberta, Hrag Vartanian, Joanne Mattera -- co-curated an exhibit at Denise Bibro's Platform Project Space and had a panel discussion on art and blogging Saturday evening that was live twittered. Unable to attend, I got to follow the discussion online.
It was fun to meet some of the bloggers in person, but I had to leave the Blogpix show early on Thursday evening, because I was invited to the Broadway play Billy Elliot, a play about a boy growing up in dying coal village in Thatcher-era Great Brittan. It was traditional for boys to grow up hard-scrabble with boxing lessons, eventually ending up in the mines, but Billy had a talent for ballet. The play has some obvious twists and turns, along with the heart-wrenching reoccurring visits from the ghost of his mother. Most of the play rests on the shoulders of young Billy's fairly elaborate dance routines, which are often impressive, but it's a long series of grueling singing and dance routines for one young actor to carry on his own. Similarly the Armory show and satellite fairs may be a prelude to the changes the art business is in for. Little Billy will dance no matter, but the coal subsidies are drying up -- alternative energy is the future, as are some sobering economic realities for us all.
In addition to this blog post many of us covering the fairs were instantly updating on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, never missing a beat. So as always there lots more pictures on my Flickr site.