The art market got a head start this year, thanks to the first-ever edition of Frieze L.A. and its inaugural guest of honor, one Brad Pitt. Still, it’s been business as usual at the 2019 edition of Armory Week: As usual, this year’s VIP preview of the Armory Show, now in its 25th year, drew a number of celebrity guests, including Paul Rudd, Sofia Coppola, and Isabelle Huppert. What the remaining nine fairs lacked in star power, though, they made up for in art. (Even though the number of artists featured in this year’s Spring/Break paled in comparison to its past 800-plus.)
The most free-wheeling of the fairs may have left behind its usual outpost at Vanity Fair‘s former, dilapidated offices overlooking Times Square, but its new, slightly smaller location, inside the former Finnish and Liberian Embassies, whose neighbors are the United Nations and the Trump World Tower, still managed to make the rest look relatively staid. The artist Shona McAndrew, for example, recreated the contents of her bedroom entirely out of papier-mâché, including items like her pill bottles, dirty socks, tampons, and art books. She didn’t leave herself out, either: a life-size, very life-like representation of McAndrew and her boyfriend also made the cut. (Their clothes, on the other hand, did not.)
Nadine Faraj also created an immersive, nudity-friendly environment, though hers could only be seen with a flashlight, which were handed to visitors to illuminate her take on cave art. And artists like Pajtim Osmanaj and Anne Spalter even managed to bring the outdoors inside, though the latter chose to do so upside-down, mirroring her view on the current state of public affairs.
Luckily, there was still plenty of real estate to go around for other large-scale works, like Cj Hendry‘s “Drug Money,” which invites visitors to step inside a colossal pill bottle and attempt to snatch up as make fake dollar bills as possible. Meanwhile, Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw have also been tempting visitors with their massive sculpture “Tipping Point,” a giant recreation of a punctured torso whose back featured a refrigerator filled with marzipans. Its front may have looked a bit off-putting, but it was nothing compared to the sculpture that Dustin Yellin tapped Nicholas Oh to, um, erect atop a pottery wheel, causing its extremely erect penis to repeatedly smack the face of another sculpture each time it spun.
The other fairs that opened this week were (fortunately) devoid of menacing phalluses, but stocked to the brim with pretty much everything else. At Spring Studios, Independent was as sleek as ever; thanks to Scott Reeder’s playful ceramics, even Cheez-Its took on a sophisticated air, whereas David Shrigley contributed his usual dose of humor to the Armory Show.
There was no shortage of space for other artists to shine at the Armory, though no one managed to do so as brightly as Pascale Marthine Tayou or Leo Villareal. By covering his portion of the ceiling with shooting stars made out of LED lights, Villareal did so quite literally, whereas Tayou’s approach was twofold; the only thing more impressionable than his 21-foot-tall sculpture made out of 25,000 plastic bags was its price tag: $240,000.
Plastic is, after all, somewhat everlasting; as Tayou pointed out, it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Some artists did, however, manage to keep things more accessible; at Independent, for example, anyone willing to wait in line could have their portrait done by the artist Joel Mesler. And while the drinks that Mark Dion has been selling from a lemonade stand may have nothing on “Plastic Bags”‘s shelf life, they do come at 0.0000083 percent of of Tayou’s price.