The 2016 Armory show brought together 205 international dealers in modern and contemporary art with a special focus on African Art curated by the founders of Contemporary And (C&), Yvette Mutumba and Julia Grosse,. The new director of the fair, Benjamin Genocchio had foreseen several changes in spatial distribution in the hopes of ameliorating the public’s overall experience at the Armory.
Monir Farmanfarmanian’s celestial sculptures at the Haines Gallery, Masahisa Fukase’s “Hibi” Photographs at the Michael Hoppen Gallery and so many others were as self-contained universes colliding with each other.
Once I had covered as much ground as humanly possible, I found myself strangely needing to return to the African section of the show; like a magnetic force was leading me back to further assess something I had heretofore been unable to put in to words.
The atmosphere was bold yet rooted in tradition. The work was driven by political and humanitarian consciousness. Through the risks being taken and the array of perspectives, the prevailing monolithic understanding of what is Africa to rest of the world would eventually give way to some totally new knowledge.
Grey Balloons with the inscription “YOUR MOM” in a bold font were being distributed at one corner. The artist Ed young represented by SMAC gallery was responsible for this provocative yet humorous move as well as for a huge sign at the main entrance reading: “ALL SO F***ING AFRICAN.” Needless to say that got a lot of attention.
Notable for it’s eccentricity was the artwork of Francisco Vidal at Tiwani Contemporary. A colorful tapestry of graphics on wooden boards and expressive portraits done with ink on paper covered every inch of the wall. The artist himself was addressing the audience in full character and playing music from his laptop from the back of the booth. The display was playful yet ultimately, totally integrated.
With some distance, I could finally distinguish what it was that made me “return to Africa” so many times in the course of one visit to the Pier: Something I could only call “Soul!”
And since soul is the one common denominator among-st humans, I doubt if any further explanation could better summarize the experience at this year’s African Armory.