The Armory Show is held annually at Manhattan’s Piers 92 & 94 and was acquired its name in 1999 when the fair was located at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. Founded in 1994 by dealers Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris as the Gramercy International Art Fair, this show became the largest in New York and one of the most important fairs in the international art market. The name is the homage to the legendary 1913 exhibition, which, for the first time then, showcased works by avant-garde European artists along with their American counterparts. Throughout its years, the Armory Show was presenting such legendary names as Picasso and Pollock as well as the most cutting edge artists of a younger generation.
Thus the Armory Show became the leading Contemporary and Modern Art Fair in the world. Its mission is to showcase, under one roof (literally, two), the most important artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries providing the access to a selection of the world’s leading galleries. Besides, it offers exceptional program of art events and exhibitions throughout New York during the celebrated Armory Arts Week.
For more a decade, the Armory Show has been a Queen of art events in Manhattan. It attracted top galleries, collectors, and artists by providing them with the annual opportunity to check out emerging trends and new artworks.
The scene has changed over the past 4-5 years. There were several factors having influenced the dominance of the Armory Show: the economic situation, some major galleries dropping out of the show, proliferation of other shows worldwide. Besides, the local start up of Frieze Art Fair in 2012 brought extra competition. All these factors are challenging the Armory Show to reinvent itself. The Armory Show was criticized for being “too corporate, too big, or too much one booth after another,” as described by Noah Horowitz, executive director of the Armory Show from November 2011. So in other words, to be more competitive and successful, the Armory Show has to face a sort of an image problem and rebrand itself.
Some key steps have been made in this direction: the new fair will be more gallery-driven and conceptual, with more single booths. A Solo and Special Projects Program will showcase single themes and artists. Also a new branding program for the Show was created by one of the Show’s commissioned artists, Liz Magic Laser. The challenge is to update everything from the show concept to its merchandising materials such as T-shirts. While implementing all these innovations the Armory Show will continue to strongly emphasize its American roots.