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Ten Things You Need to Know to Navigate the Armory Show

By Heidi Patalano | March 6, 2014 7:24am
 Insiders told DNAinfo New York what to expect at the art fair.
The Armory Show 2014
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MIDTOWN WEST — The Armory Show can seem like an event meant only for a rarefied class of art collectors and experts, but the galleries want regular people to come see their art too.

The four-day event, which opens Thursday, is open to the public for a $40 entrance fee. Visitors can view art from galleries from all over the world but, alongside the spectators, big business is happening.

DNAinfo New York spoke to some insiders — a gallerist, two collectors and an artist whose work will be on display — to find out what you should know to enjoy the Armory Show:

1. If you go, plan to stay for the day.
“The art fairs now, including the Armory, are really trying to push creating an experience where you can spend a longer day — so they’re focusing on getting better food. You can have your lunch there and spend substantial amounts of time,” collector and luxury real estate developer Michael Shvo, president and CEO of SHVO said.

2. Don’t try to look at every work of art.
“You don’t have to look at every single thing... perhaps you walk down the aisle and when something jumps out at you, then you look deeper — that allows you to see more rather than getting burnt out really quickly,” Lauren Marinaro, director of Zach Feuer Gallery in Chelsea, said.

3. For collectors, The Armory’s initial opening is not unlike Black Friday.
“The Armory, like every other art fair, has become very sophisticated in even enhancing that idea of urgency by creating different [times] of entrance,” said Shvo.

“Every year it seems like they’re creating another tier and another tier in order to create that urgency so that the buyers really feel like they’re in before someone else … I do buy work at art fairs, but I try not to get into the whole hysteria and panic that when the door opens, you have to run to the galleries and get the works on hold."

4. That said, the atmosphere is friendly and enthusiastic.
“The Armory opens and you see all these people lining up. It’s like cattle waiting to push in and then you realize once it opens that it really doesn’t matter. People are just trying to get in not because there’s a prize at the end. They’re trying to get in because they’re enthusiastic and excited," said Peter Hort, a collector and attorney specializing in fine arts law.

5. For galleries, the first hours of The Armory are the most important.
“If you talk to the galleries, you’ll find that a big percentage of their business is done at the first hours of the fair. It’s almost like the premiere of a movie. If you have a good opening weekend then you know the movie’s going to be successful,” said Shvo.

6. But the galleries aren’t just after collectors — they’d like to meet you, too.
“It’s nice because people who might be intimidated by galleries will come to the Armory and see artists we’re showing and then they can come to the gallery and see the work more in-depth that way,” Marinaro said.

7. After hours, the artists in the show like to go drink together in Chelsea.
“We have our clubhouse which is Billymarks West,” said artist Maximilian Toth, who is represented by Fredericks and Freiser Gallery in Chelsea.

“That is where we all tend to rally. It’s just an awesome dive bar with an awesome jukebox. It’s a postal worker bar."

8. The galleries go to art fairs all over the world and show different work at each fair.
“We usually rotate what artists we show at different art fairs,” said Marinaro of Zach Feuer Gallery, referencing Art Basel in Miami and the Frieze Art Fair in London, among others.

“It could either be an artist who has an upcoming show, to show people what we will be having soon in the gallery space or an artist that has new work that we want to show or someone who we think will be found interesting in the context of the art fair,” she said.

9. Artists use The Armory Show as a chance to network.
“I’ll often get together with a few artists and we’ll go through all together,” said Toth.

“Everybody knows somebody so you end up stopping at different booths and talking to gallerists, or being introduced to collectors who are walking around. It’s a very social business."

10. Big collectors do attend the art festivals in the city that piggyback off the Armory Show.
“There’s multiple shows now — Scope, Volta and Pulse — each one of them tries to take a different segment of the market and have a different audience but at the end of the day I always walk through the main fair and some of the smaller fairs because you really never know where that young artist is going to come from,” Shvo said.