The Armory Show: Two Piers of Peerless Entertainment

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Get ready for a trip to the piers: the Armory Show, New York’s colossal international art fair, is back, and it’s bigger than ever. The 11th edition of the fair finds 154 galleries from 22 countries exhibiting contemporary art on Pier 94, with 70 dealers offering a mix of modern masters and historically significant contemporary art on Pier 92. While sales at the recent Art Show in New York were reportedly weak, the art market is gaining renewed confidence from the record prices just set for works from Yves Saint Laurent’s collection.

The boldest galleries at the Armory Show are presenting solo shows. Galerie EIGEN + ART from Berlin and Leipzig exhibits new canvases and an installation of dreamlike landscapes and interiors by German painter Matthias Weischer. The Apartment from Athens shows drawings, videos, and a mural by Swedish artist Maria Finn, whose work revolves around existing film narratives. Christine Hill, an American artist who teaches at the Bauhaus in Weimar, turns New York’s Ronald Feldman Fine Art into the Armory Apothecary, a European style drug store complete with “one-on-one consultation and trusted over-the-counter care.” If you’re looking for something more risqué, Tel Aviv’s Sommer Contemporary Art touts the persona-capturing photographs of Rona Yefman, who is still a graduate student at Columbia University — yet one who seems to be on several people’s radar.

Out to top everything else on view, Kenny Scharf presents a new batch of his signature pop-surrealist paintings, sculptures, and prints at New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery, while also creating an energetic, live spray painting on five 24-foot canvases spanning the facade of Pier 94 — and providing Carzy Roy-al, a customized golf cart driven by a spaceman, to chauffeur people between the piers and around the exhibitions. Meanwhile, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin from Paris and Miami gives up half its booth to a sublime group of frames framing frames — or what could be called surrogates for paintings — by the conceptual art duo KOLKOZ, and London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery shows Ewan Gibbs, the artist commissioned to create the visual identity for the 2009 fair with his dot-pattern views of New York City.

Highlights in the group presentations at the Armory Show booths include Martin Creed‘s new stacked-furniture sculptures at Rome’s Galleria Lorcan O’Neill; Wim Delvoye‘s X-ray photographs of rats enacting the 14 Stations of the Cross at Geneva’s Galerie Guy Bärtschi; Koichi Enomoto‘s painted montage of patterns defining a figure at Tokyo’s Hiromi Yoshii; Mickalene Thomas‘ editioned screenprint of Michelle Obama — recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC — at Chicago’s Rhona Hoffman Gallery; Bonnie Seeman‘s surreal ceramics, based on human bones, organs, and muscles, at Mexico City’s Galeria OMR; and a seductive painting of a nude named Kiki by the late, great pop artist Tom Wesselmann at Galerie Thomas from Munich.

Regardless of the financial outcome, galleries from around the world are displaying what they believe to be the best art of the moment — and for the cost of a museum admission or the click of a mouse, it’s ours to enjoy.

The Armory Show takes place March 5-8 at Pier 92 and Pier 94 at 12th Avenue and 55th Street.

Image Credit: Tom Wesselmann, Kiki, 2003