To label “The Armory Show” overwhelming is a gross understatement. In one space the general public, art dealers, various museum staff, and private patrons can view hundreds of art works from a multitude of artists and galleries from all over the world.
At the entrance of the space, on Piers 92 and 94 on the West Side of Manhattan, the visitors are herded through a few narrow queues and let loose inside the show to ruminate on the abundant artworks. Maps and show guides attempt to clarify the maze of temporary individual gallery spaces, but even the most diligent seeker can get distracted by the endless amounts of artwork and can quickly become disoriented. Additionally, much of the art is being constantly rotated as galleries sell individual pieces or try to showcase the best of their collection. Even if it were possible to see every piece of art in a single viewing, it would take several exhausting hours, if not an entire day. From elbowing through the thick crowd, to trying to interpret the onslaught of form, line, color, and subject, and navigating the immense space, the viewer can rapidly succumb to total sensory overload.
That being said, within the immense volume of art displayed in the show, viewers have access to, literally, the best art money can buy. Creativity abounds, expert craftsmanship is the modus operandi, and artists’ names are as common as television celebrities. Paintings, prints, drawings, neon, mixed-media wall pieces, ceramics, and sculptures of all shapes and sizes compete with each other for the viewers’ attention (and money). Within just a few steps down an isle, a person can visit galleries from giants in the art world such as London, New York, and Paris, as well as some from as far away as South Africa, South America, and Mexico. However, it must be noted that while the show is culturally diverse, it offers little in the way of installations (sound or otherwise), ephemeral, experimental, or conceptual art. The goal of “The Armory Show” is to have work seen, sold, moved, and promptly replaced so the cycle can begin again.
The show is all about the art market, and it is overwhelming, but entirely unique and awe-inspiring. At any moment the viewer can stand back, block out the madness, and bask in the wonder of it all. It is definitely an annual event not to be missed by anyone.