Galleries such as SARAI, Dastan Gallery, Pi Artworks and Dirimart are among this year’s over 200 exhibitors at The Armory Show in New York.
New York’s homegrown art fair The Armory Show became a seminal part of the art world’s fall back-to-school season after the pandemic. The change to early September from its usual March slot after almost three decades also coincided with a move to the Javits Center in 2021. In its third year at the gargantuan conference hall on Manhattan West Side, the fair opens its VIP day on 7 September, with public days extending through the 10th.
With more than 225 international exhibitors from around 30 nations, the Armory is far from a local affair and the event is known for being the longest-running art fair in the city that controls the world’s largest art market. Following the announcement last month of the British art fair giant Frieze’s purchase of the Armory (along with Chicago’s own art fair EXPO), the art world is all eyes and ears about the first iteration under new management.
The fair is expected to do justice to kickstarting the art season in a week that also coincides with the unveiling of major museum exhibitions such as MoMA’s Ed Ruscha retrospective, the ambitious group show Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s at the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s much-awaited survey of Ruth Asawa’s drawings. At the Javits, art will be large, ambitious and ritzy. “New York has always been the centre for experiencing cutting-edge art but seeing the fair join a period of overall excitement around the city is particularly exciting,” said the Armory executive director Nicole Berry to Canvas, and added: “Our roots are regional but our scale is international.”
Among the fair’s returning international participants is Tehran’s beloved Dastan Gallery with a booth featuring 13 Iranian artists. Working across painting, sculpture and moving image, the artists based in Tehran or the West explore the political and everyday Iranian experience as well as its diasporas. Hoda Kashiha’s paintings of vibrant abstraction alludes to bodies entrapped within sharp geometries and rigid lines; Homa Delvaray’s vibrantly-patterned three-dimensional piece carries cues from the Farsi alphabet and iconography, the presentation carves a nook of the country’s contemporary landscape. While the London-based artist Reza Aramesh’s piercing sculpture shows a young man rendered in traditional Western art at a booth-friendly scale, his art will also spill into the city as part of the fair’s collaboration with New York City Parks.
A large-scale iteration of the artist’s ongoing Site of the Fall: Study of the Renaissance Garden series (2016) is installed at Collect Pond Park in Tribeca, exhibiting a semi-nude figure whose head is covered with a cloth, recalling the war victim images commonly shown in media. The subject’s bronze skin, elegant posture and the head covering’s lofty drape echo with Renaissance-era depictions of idealized male figures. The presentation is part of a larger initiative titled Armory Off-Site, which extends the fair programming around town. In Times Square, a collaboration with Times Square Arts, for example, carries Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander’s video work Reckoning (2020) to almost 100 billboards around the crossroad of the Great White Way.
Another retuning exhibitor from Iran is SARAI Gallery which dedicates its booth entirely to Abbas Nasle Shamloo’s moody paintings of inhabited natural vistas. While trees with sharply growing branches and overcast skies awaiting a downpour constitute the artist’s subject matter, he assumes such grey-hued alienated landscapes as an invitation to contemplate on natural decline and societal isolation.
As one of the influential voices in Istanbul’s cultural scene, Dirimart brings to New York a visual and narrative portrayal of art being produced in the Eurasian megacity by the nation’s established and newer generation artists. Canan Tolon’s energetic depictions of urban chaos reduces the daily cacophony into determined painterly gestures. Explosive and absorbing, the artist’s tunnel paintings alchemise the celestial impact of light at the end with firm heft of the concrete shafts, solidifying the influence of Tolon’s formal training in architecture in her practice. Berlin and Istanbul-based artist Ayşe Erkmen brings her site-responsive visual lexicon to the Armory after exhibiting her playful and often times participatory installations in the likes of Skulptur Projekte Münster, Manifesta and Venice Biennale.
The Armory Show runs from 8-10 September 2023