The first weekend in March rang in the seventeenth year of the Armory Show, and brought critics, artists, (and wannabe-critics who are majoring in art history) out into the last of the cold days to gawk, sneer, admirer, and posture.
Piers 94 and 92 were packed with art from different countries, of different mediums, and with varying messages. The idea of the Armory Show is not only to celebrate New York’s distinctive artistic communities, but to have a wide scope of art in concert, to bring together artist on an international scale, and deepen the conversation that so often falls victim to the nepotism of artistry in the city.
Although the main event took place on Piers 94 and 92 for $45, the broke and art-curious are able to head to galleries throughout the five boroughs offering free shows. Armory Arts Week, a step-child of the Army Show, takes advantage of this influx of art enthusiasts every year to showcase the diverse selections of New York’s own artists.
Unlike the Armory show, Armory Arts Week allows lesser-known artists to submit their work: work that often doesn’t quite “fit” with other installations, or with a gallery’s carefully tailored vibe. It’s a time to see artists’ pet projects, half-baked concept art, and the kind of pieces that are done more for fun than to generate income or professionalization.
During Arts Week, you can see (and I did) a massive installation made of thousands of balloons, set as the archway of a certain Hell’s Kitchen gallery, a performance piece in which a man on a ladder inspects some Rocco-style art, and a small closet filled with moss that looks freshly pulled from Fern Gully. At the (Un)scene Arts show, patrons are rewarded with a painted sign reading “Free Ice Cream!” Baffled, the masses waited for someone to make the bold move to see if the Ben and Jerry’s miniatures are really there as snacks, or as art.
But the best part (and ideal illustration) of the surreal and difficult but delightful exhibit is the final room, dimly lit and filled with various photos. Only when the room was full did I realize that the attendant keeping watch had a second task: to close the doors, and turn a giant lever. The room (which we all then realized at that point was an elevator) takes you up a few more floors for the final segment of the installation.
From there, head to Chelsea for the Moving Image event, held in the brilliantly bright waterfront New York Tunnel event space. Tunnel events take place year round, and the space is perfect for drifting from one screen to the next. The people-watching is almost more entertaining that the many multimedia displays, although both the people and the artwork are incredibly wired.
If museum fatigue is starting to sink in, take a cue for the wired art show and make quick pit stop at Blue Bottle around the corner for a cup of siphoned coffee that’s so delicious, you won’t feel like too much of an art and coffee snob. Or at least you won’t care. Re-energized, head to the Clio Art Fair for a bright and invigorating mishmash of work. Here, the artists circulate and chat with you about their methodologies, inspirations, and future projects. At once the most down to earth and bizarre collection, Clio is the perfect spot to end your day.
Although there are almost too many galleries to fit even in all of Armory Arts Week, take advantage of this event, watch some performance art, and get inspired by the city in time for spring and sidewalk chalk.
**Originally published on TwentysomethingNYC.com on March 13, 2015**