History of The Armory Show

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The Armory Show, housed in Piers 92 and 94 along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s west side, is the largest art fair in New York and one of the principal annual art events in the international art market calendar. Visited by tens of thousands of people each March, the Armory has for almost two decades been the showpiece for some of the world’s most important modern and contemporary art galleries. Canonical names from Picasso to Pollock have all been presented at the fair, as have, in equal measure, some of the most cutting edge artists of a younger generation. Organized by The Armory Show, Armory Arts Week has emerged as one of liveliest moments in New York’s already rich cultural calendar, with a number of smaller art fairs temporarily alighting throughout the city and the major museums staging their marquee exhibitions to coincide with the fair.

Founded in 1994 by dealers Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris as the Gramercy International Art Fair, named after its initial location in the legendary Gramercy Park Hotel, The Armory Show acquired its new title in 1999 following the fair’s migration to the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. The name was an homage to the legendary 1913 exhibition of the same name that also took place in this building, which famously showcased works by avant-garde European artists never previously seen on American soil side-by-side with their American counterparts. This original Armory Show is widely credited for bringing Modern art to New York, and its eclectic and unorthodox mix of genres, juxtaposing Vincent van Gogh alongside Marcel Duchamp and Edward Hopper, has been a source of inspiration for ensuing decades and continues to linger today, 100 years later.

While its location at the 69th Regiment Armory was only temporary, the current Armory Show was inspired by the idea of bringing new art from all over the globe together under one roof. The fair moved to the west side piers in 2001, initially on Piers 88 and 90. Like the fair’s previous locations, the piers feature prominently in New York City history, and are also a characteristic part of its visual make-up, with their finger-like structures poking out from Manhattan on popular bird’s eye view maps of the island.

The piers are numbered according to their original position amongst over a hundred similarly sized piers from the south tip of the island to the Upper West Side. Located between 52nd Street and 55th Street on Twelfth Avenue. The Armory’s piers are on the edge of midtown, with it’s characteristic skyline and flashy neon signs hovering just a few blocks away.

The piers are visual reminders of a significant time in New York’s past, when the Hudson River was central to the city’s transportation infrastructure. Wider than the East River, and connected to timber, coal, livestock, and other natural resources from upstate New York, the waterway carried steamboats and ferries to a budding metropolis long before cars became mainstream. Passengers and cargo were off-loaded at the various piers, which further connected the surrounding area by rail—the Highline, now a public park, extended from the riverfront to the Meatpacking District and SoHo.

 

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