nyc-armory week 2018

 Mohau Modisakeng

Mohau Modisakeng


by rachel wilkins

Storm Quinn battered down on the East Coast into the early hours of Thursday morning, but that didn’t stop thousands of eager art lovers from venturing out to see what this year’s Armory Show had in store. 

Since its founding in 1994, the Armory Show has served as a nexus for the art world, inspiring dialogue, discovery, and patronage in the visual arts. Staged on Piers 92 & 94, the Armory Show features presentations by over 200 leading international galleries, innovative artist commissions, and dynamic public programs. 

With just a few hours to take in this mammoth fair, I had to be strategic and powered up: black coffee and some comfortable shoes (no room for glamour here), and I was on my way. 

Upon arriving at Pier 94, I was greeted by a towering piece featuring archival Ellis Island photographs in a large-scale installation. Inside, the faces in the archival image from Ellis Island are updated with Syrians’ portraits, taken by JR at the Zaatari refugee camp in 2017. 

 by JR, greeting visitors to the Armory 2018 show

by JR, greeting visitors to the Armory 2018 show

The new installation expands on JR’s provocative and often politically charged public interventions that paste large-scale, black-and-white photographs of individuals across cities’ architecture, re-weaving a human presence into the urban fabric. Building upon his UNFRAMED series of borrowed photographs, SO CLOSE collapses history and geography, and is a direct response to the global immigration crises. SO CLOSE will be the first work seen by visitors as part of The Contingent, which responds to the unfolding zeitgeist that Mergel defines as the “rise of collective action in the face of a prevalence of uncertainty.” – Courtesy of

I was enchanted by Mizuma Art Gallery’s solo presentation of Japenese-Australian artists’ Ken + Julia Yonetani. The artists’ work explores the interactions between humans, nature, science, and the spiritual realm in the contemporary age. Through diverse aesthetic strategies and material choices, their work has received global attention for its nuanced expression of contemporary issues relating to ecology, politics, and human activity’s influence on the planet. The presentation comprises antique metal chandelier frames decorated with uranium glass. The glass contains minuscule and safe quantities of depleted uranium, which causes it to glow green when exposed to UV light.  

 "Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations: USA"  Ken + Julia Yonetani

"Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations: USA"

Ken + Julia Yonetani

As I surveyed the many aisles of three-dimensional works, the uptick of interactive installations impressed me. Who knew Neon was here to stay! What struck me most however, was the volume of works that provoked thought, that stirred the soul and spoke bluntly on current affairs, none more so than on the issue of race. The most powerful of which was a solo exhibit by artist Mohau Modisakeng (Booth 621), presented by Galerie Ron Mandos of Rotterdam. 

 Mohau Modisakeng

Mohau Modisakeng

The artist uses material, metaphor, and the black body as tools to explore the influence of South Africa's violent history that has been ignored in today’s society. Using film, large-scale photos, installations, and performances, he explores how we understand our cultural, political, and social roles as human beings in post-colonial Africa and in particular post-apartheid South Africa.

Another homerun by the team behind the Armory Show, this fair never disappoints. I was impressed by the overall curation and content of the exhibit; the fair is absolutely worth a visit—however, it is perhaps best to time your visit for the early morning to avoid the crowds. My only wish was for a few extra hours to truly take it all in but alas, other fairs are calling! Until next time!

Tickets are $47 or $30 for students and available via the following link: