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The Now factor

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Photo shows a soldier walking through the Pulse art fair which was held at the 69th Regiment Armory on 26th and Lexington. Click photo to see it bigger.

Post by James Rosenthal

The Art Fairs (Pulse and Armory which I saw Sunday) compare with the Whitney Biennial in as much as they are a cross section of what is happening now. The key difference is that the Art Fairs are not organized in a curatorial way.

The galleries show what they deem important and saleable. This gives the fairs an excitement that trumps the rather tedious curatorial efforts at the Whitney which again insists it knows what is happening Now.

The other ingredient in the Now Factor is commerce itself. Although the Armory show can afford to show off and include work that is not really for sale, and hire women who walk around in whited-out glasses in a faux performance.

They weren’t hired by the Armory but performance artists Eva and Adele were walking around the Armory when we were there Thursday. We talked with them and they’re nice. Each one does her own makeup, they said, when I asked. All other painting on paper or canvas is collaborative.

Strangely enough, The Armory Show is at the big piers 90 and 92 on the West Side not at the Armory where it took its name from, and that caused some confusion for those on the shuttle bus.

Pulse, a much smaller fair, is in The Armory. Pulse was a little more restrained with a few installations to jive up the booths. I must say it was fascinating to go inside the actual Armory (69th Regiment on Lexington Avenue) where the famous exhibition of 1913 was held. There was no Nude Descending A Staircase but there was a wonderful display case full of war memorabilia which challenged some of the art for reality stakes and aura.

My favorite piece at the Armory was music-related. Artist Sean Duffy cut together parts of three turntables so that one record is played three times at once, a little delayed. While I was there it was playing classic Neil Diamond in a weird way, his version of Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me. And there was the odd blast from the past that contains some history, the inclusion of Hannah Wilke‘s great feminist stuff.
When I covered Art Basel/Miami Beach for inliquid I was interested in comparing the different levels of art between the main fairs and the smaller satellites but this time they all seemed to be in the same business and were sharing the same kooky NY vibe. Records for attendance and hoopla were broken but this massive intellectual shopping experience might put me off going to the mall for a while.

–James Rosenthal is a Philadelphia artist and writer whose reviews appear regularly on inliquid