The Art Show, a stylish art fair organized by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), kicked off its 21st annual edition Wednesday night at the Park Avenue Armory with a gala preview benefiting the Henry Street Settlement, one of New York’s oldest art and social services agencies. Seventy galleries from New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and San Antonio — ranging from the hip Gavin Brown’s enterprise to the venerable Zabriskie Gallery — presented modern and contemporary art in smartly designed spaces.
We arrived early to see the work, enjoy a bite to eat, sip some champagne, and snap the players before they grew weary. New York Times photog Bill Cunningham, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and ARTnews publisher Milton Esterow were one-step ahead — which put us in good company as we entered.
The fair looks fresher than ever this year, displaying 24 solo shows and 17 specially curated thematic exhibitions. Pace Wildenstein offers a great group of colorful, squiggly line drawings by Sol LeWitt, who died two years ago, while across the aisle Marian Goodman Gallery presents 31 new, exquisite enameled lacquer on paper (photographs and book plates) works by Gerhard Richter.
Michael Werner has a great mix of thickly painted abstract canvases by Eugène Leroy and figurative South Arabian alabaster sculptures, which date from 100 BC to 100 AD, from the area now known as Yemen. Gavin Brown’s enterprise creates another interesting juxtaposition with paintings and drawings by Laura Owens sharing the booth with a bookshelf filled with a marvelous selection of art books from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. Chosen by Brown’s artists, the books are displayed side-by-side with small-framed works on paper by Elizabeth Peyton and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Tibor de Nagy dedicates its whole booth to the late Pop artist Larry Rivers paintings and works on paper from the 1950s and ’60s; Mary-Anne Martin has a mix of paintings and drawings from the 1940s to the early-‘60s by Mexican surrealist Gunther Gerzso, who died at age 85 in 2000; Susan Sheehan turns her space over to geometric prints from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s by the late conceptual art master Donald Judd; and David Zwirner keeps Al Taylor’s flame burning with a group of twisted-cable sculptures and related drawings.
Elsewhere, new work by contemporary artists commands the booth. Matthew Marks, one of the founders of the Armory Show, chose to only do the Art Show this year and presents a stunning group of abstract ceramics and landscape drawings by Ken Price. Friedrich Petzel exhibits Nicola Tyson’s distorted, psychologically charged figurative paintings and drawings. D’Amelio Terras shows recent assemblages with rosaries, pennants, and memorial ribbons, based on traditional Victorian memorials, by Houston-based artist Dario Robleto. Sikkema Jenkins & Co. has a handsome display of small abstract canvases by British painter Merlin James.
Luhring Augustine resurrects a 1999-2001 series of photographs of the abandoned High Line by Joel Sternfeld, on view as a precursor to the upcoming opening of the renovated High Line as an urban art project, and Ronald Feldman offers an excavated piece of sidewalk with a parking sign and meter from New Haven by Tavares Strachan, which is curiously kept in a display case at 40 degrees, the temperature when the artist excavated it. It’s an extraordinary piece, but the real show stopper is a performance at James Cohan, the Art Show’s first live performance, of Chinese artist Xu Zhen’s “In Just a Blink of an Eye,” which magically captures a figure in the moment between falling and hitting the ground.
The Art Show remains on view at the Park Avenue Armory through Monday, February 23.