March 27, 2008

The Armory Show 2008

Contemporary art lovers are in their element this weekend as New York City hosts a marathon of art fairs dedicated to new and emerging artists. SCOPE, Bridge, Red Dot, PULSE, Art Now and L.A. Art are all part of the "New York Art Weekend", a sort of mini-Art Basel that runs through March 30 at various venues throughout the city.

The main event is The Armory Show, a tribute to the famous 1913 Armory Show where Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" made it's shocking debut. The 2008 version is huge - over 150 exhibitors from around the world installed on Pier 94 on the Hudson River. Collectors, museum curators, art advisers, artists, dealers and art world wannabes of all types, dressed to be noticed and all having cell phone conversations of the "utmost" importance, mob the stands and the aisles in the quest to find the next hot star. But one nagging little question, that started as a whisper and is now growing into more of a growl, remains - is this really art?

I hate to sound like some fuddy-duddy who looks at a Picasso sketch and says "My 6 year old grandson could have drawn that". I try to keep an open mind and appreciate a fine technique, a clever idea, a philosophical statement or simply a beautiful object. But I'm starting to have my doubts. Let me show you a few examples from today's visit:

This installation by Thomas Hirschhorn is entitled "Tool Table", done in 2007. It is comprised of dozens of mannequin limbs fastened onto a sheet of wood which is covered in shiny brown tape, set up as a table on saw horses. Each hand or foot has a book or a tool scotch taped onto it. It is on the stand of Arndt & Partner, Berlin.

A sculpture by Tom Sachs called "Friedrich Powermiser", 2006, is a life size wooden re-construction of a window air conditioner on a plywood box base. This can be found at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac of Salzburg, Austria, and New York.

Finally, my personal favorite, an installation consisting of several rows of clothesline affixed to a wall with brackets. On these clotheslines is a collection of stuffed toys and a bath towel hanging by plastic clothespins. This "masterpiece" is called "Marathon", 2007, by Cosima Von Bonin and is presented by Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York.

The art world often seems to operate in a different galaxy than the rest of us, and maybe I just don't "get it", but I am afraid that the contemporary art boom is about to have a reality check.

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