It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Armory Week returns yet again to New York City this week; March 1st – 6th. The upcoming fairs and events associated with Armory Week provide numerous platforms showcasing contemporary art ranging from the Modern masters of the 20th century to emerging artists. Understandably, the next week just might feel like the holidays for contemporary art dealers, collectors, artists, and just plain enthusiasts alike.
Why should you care about Armory Week and the numerous affiliated art fairs? Sure, art fairs in New York City might seem a bit unnecessary— maybe even redundant. One can easily navigate a gallery crawl without ever changing their geo-tag on Snapchat. Chelsea, the LES, and Bushwick all represent prime gallery hopping neighborhoods where you won’t be charged admission. However, Armory Week, as well as the art fair as a general concept, represents much more than just a gallery guide or even a trade show. Armory week embodies the idea that art should be shared on an international level in order to challenge the current aesthetic ideals, educate and broaden the public audience, and connect members of the global art market.
Art fairs pop up repeatedly throughout the history of art; The Salon des Refuses (1863), the Paris International Exposition (1937 World’s Fair), Art Cologne (1967) and Art Basel (1970) all represent historic fairs. Next weeks Armory Show, established 1994, finds roots in the 1913 “Armory Show” or the International Exhibition of Modern Art, (IEMA).
Organized in 1913 by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS) the IEMA sought to instigate a discussion within the contemporary art scene. The show proposed exhibiting the artwork of living artists, both American and foreign, previously ignored or rejected by the academy and it's aesthetic ideals. Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and Matisse’s Blue Nude are among the historic paintings, sculptures, and decorative works originally viewed in the IEMA as shocking and “not art!” 
Regardless of any initial reactions, the IEMA was a huge success. It introduced the American public to the new European Avant-Garde and sparked a global dialogue about contemporary art.
Art fairs today might not have the same shock and awe factor but certainly they continue the artistic effort to give and take on an international level. How else would new “isms” transition or achieve fruition had it not been for some artist finding inspiration in another?
With that being said, again you ask: why should you care, and if not care perhaps why should you go? Well, the inherent value of an art fair is not the $20 entry-fee but rather the overall experience and the opportunity for you to participate in international art culture. You never know when the next Nude Descending a Staircase will exhibit and change the art world forever!
So now that you’re (hopefully) motivated to attend the upcoming Armory Week here is all you need to know.
What to wear, what to wear: Despite most of the art professionals and booth staffs adhering to a rigorous “all black” uniform don’t feel obligated to participate in this monochrome mentality. Wear whatever you like, but remember that art fairs are typically marathon days. Comfort is key— you will be walking, and walking, and then walking some more. In hindsight, maybe you should wear your apple watch (count those steps baby!)
Can I take pictures? Absolutely, just remember to hashtag the artist! Most emerging artists and creative professionals have huge digital media platforms and often rely on social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook for self-marketing and digital awareness.
Does it matter that I’m not buying anything? No! Dealers are pretty well versed in calculating who is and who isn’t a potential buyer. With that being said, they (well, most of them) will still engage you in conversation if you seem interested so don’t be intimidated to ask questions. A lot of time and hard work goes into curating a booth that will spark interest so it’s definitely okay to show some!
Can I buy something even if I’m not a collector? Um, yeah! How else do you think collections start. Just be sure to ask for a discount— they might not offer you one but it never hurts to ask. If you’re dead-set on getting that 10% it’s best to wait until the end of a fair, assuming your future work of art hasn’t already sold, a dealer may be more inclined to offer a discount as opposed to paying shipping costs while returning works back to the gallery/studio.
How does the Fair actually work? To ensure your best possible experience you should probably give it a little research. Check out the exhibitor list, they are usually available on the fairs website, and maybe pick out a few galleries of interest. Next, buy your tickets! General admission tickets are available for both single days and Run of Show passes. Side note, art fairs actually make awesome date ideas— so do you a favor and buy two tickets! Finally, upon entering the fair grab a floor map (just like Ikea right? ) and dive right in.
Everything else: Expect some liquid libations, it is the art world after all. And on that note, don’t be surprised if you see some celebrities in attendance. Don’t let anyone intimidate you; the art world is notorious for hosting some, shall we say pretentious, characters; but it is most certainly not a members-only party. Have fun and soak it all in! By attending a fair you’re a part of art history whether or not you realize it.
Still feel a little clueless? Here are some shows to check out:
The Armory Show:
March 2nd – 5th at Piers 92 and 94.
711 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
GA: 47$ Student/ Senior: 25-35$ Happy Hour/ After Work: 25$
When in doubt this is the show to check out, consider it the little black dress of Armory week- after all, the entire week takes its name from it. This year expect to see 200+ of the most influential galleries from around the world (30 countries total!).
March 2nd – 5th at the Skylight Clarkson North
572 Washington street
GA Run of Show: 30$ Single Day: 20$ Students/ Seniors: 10$
Definitely worth noting that 50% of the ticket sale proceeds from NADA NY will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This year expect to see 100+ exhibitors from around the world (14 countries total!).
INDEPENDENT NEW YORK:
March 2nd – 5th at Spring Studios
50 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013
GA: 25$ Students 15$
Expect to see 48 exhibitors from around the world (19 cities total).
March 1st – 5th at Pier 90
West 50th street at 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
GA: 25$ Students/ Cultural Institutions: 20$
Volta is an affiliate of the Armory Show but features solo artist projects. Expect to see 96 exhibitors from around the world (46 cities total).
SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW: