The fourteenth edition of the Armory Show promises many changes: a carefully honed, trimmed-down exhibitor list, a newly minted layout, and amplified program initiatives, as well as an exciting increase in site-specific installations, performances, and work by artists debuting in New York for the first time. A large number of galleries are presenting works created specifically for the fair, and for the first time in its history, there is an online component in collaboration with Paddle8. This year’s show is being touted as a smaller, rigorously curated “boutique fair,” catering not only to collectors and dealers, but also to artists, museums, and a broad audience of art lovers. To discuss this year’s edition of one of New York’s most important annual art events, we caught up with Noah Horowitz, newly appointed managing director (formerly of online-only VIP Art Fair and the Serpentine Gallery).
In what ways was the creative vision of the fair reshaped this year?
We have taken a much more active approach to the fair this year and have raised the level of the content as well. It’s a boutique model in that it is much more curated than in the past. We have honed down the number of galleries we are working with this year and have included many galleries which have never before been included in the fair. We have initiated a number of solo projects for emerging galleries as well.
How is this year’s edition more curatorially ambitious than in the past?
We have tried to push the boundaries of what an art fair can be. I think one of the strongest aspects of this edition is the focused, curatorial approach undertaken by many of our exhibitors. Solo booths and two- or three-person shows are prominently on view, and we hope to further emphasize this in coming years. We want the Armory to be a place for discovery—to return to the original roots of The Armory Show.
So, you were actively involved in the selection process of the artists and works to be included by the galleries?
There was certainly a much more open dialogue with the galleries as far as the selection process of artists and works represented this year. In some cases we worked with the galleries with respect to what they were bringing, especially with international galleries. It’s unique in that it is a mixture of both private and public subsidiaries. There are some alternative, artist-run galleries included as well—especially in the Nordic Focus section—which adds a fresh feel to the fair.
There has also been quite a lot made of the decision to revamp the Armory’s venue this year.
We completely rethought the architecture of the fair. We aimed for functionality, and it’s much less clustered and congested as a result—far easier to navigate. We reduced the number of aisles, doubled the size of the VIP lounge, created a dedicated media center, and added some exciting new cafes and restaurants. We have made it a place where you can enjoy an entire day without having to leave.
One of the things I am most excited about in this year’s edition is the focus on Nordic galleries and artists as curated by Jacob Fabricius, the director of the Malmö Konsthal. What’s the story behind the decision for the Nordic feature?
We decided early on to include the Nordic Focus aspect of the show. There is a thriving cultural scene in Scandinavia right now, and it is a privilege for us to introduce so many of these galleries and artists to America for the first time.
Coming off the heels of your position as director of the online-only VIP Art Fair, did that experience help inform the decision for the Armory to have an online component for the first time in its history?
We engaged Paddle8 to do an online aspect of Armory so that there would be a complimentary relationship with the fair, for those who cannot physically be in New York, and also for those who will come to the fair to catch a glimpse of what the exhibitors will be bringing. I am a strong proponent of the internet as a transformative tool, something to engage new audiences, make important introductions to galleries, and fundamentally, to educate people about art. Our relationship with Paddle8 this year is one step in that direction.
Are any similar makeovers in the works for your sister fairs, such as Volta NY?
Our sister fairs are managed independently, but we work closely together on our VIP programming in particular. There has been an incredibly strong outreach as a result of the inaugural edition of Art Platform – Los Angeles and our relationship with Pacific Standard Time, the Getty, and the other major institutions in California, for instance.
You’re probably getting tired of all the talk about how the Armory Show will respond to the first edition of the upcoming Frieze Art Fair.
Our focus is firmly on making our fair the best it can be and on delivering a good show. This is what we can control. But beyond this, there are a lot of reasons I think the Armory can remain one of the most important art fairs in in the international circuit—we have incredible relationships with the major collectors and institutions here in New York, and extensive networks beyond. In its fourteen years, the Armory has become a vital part of the cultural fabric of New York City, and each March the city springs to life with great exhibitions and events during Armory Arts Week. The Armory is also unique in that it is one of the very few fairs that artists also get excited about and actively attend. In preparing for the 2012 edition, we thought a lot about how the fair could speak to not only the commercial audience, but also to the broader community of artists, critics, curators, and academics. Our programming of talks, films, and performance is richer than ever, and we hope it will attract an ever more diverse audience to the piers.