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The massive Armory Show convened in New York City this week, bringing together nearly 200 art galleries from 31 countries and drawing art admirers from around the world. Hari Sreenivasan talks with Nicole Berry, the fair’s executive director, about some of this year’s notable pieces.
On the edge of Manhattan's West Side highway is a 24 foot tall mural by the French artist JR. He's known for enormous portraits displayed in public. This one is a mix of the faces of Syrian refugees he photographed in Jordan, superimposed over archival images of immigrants who came to Ellis Island. JR's piece is called "So Close," and it's the first thing 65,000 visitors are likely to see at this year's Armory Show. Nearly 200 galleries from dozens of countries take over two piers on the Hudson River to show off their best and brightest artists. The fair draws curators and art enthusiasts from around the world.
I spoke with the art fair's Executive Director Nicole Berry.
So tell me a little bit about this. What's the reaction to this piece by JR been?
NICOLE BERRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARMORY SHOW:
So he's really focusing on obviously topics that are relevant to the cultural climate. We as an art fair don't make any political statements but we– part of the mission of this art fair is and has been since its founding 24 years ago is to showcase work that's being created now.
So the fair is kind of a snapshot of what is on the mind of artists right now?
Absolutely, absolutely. We have curated sections, large scale–The JR piece is part of that large scale work as is a piece right here by Tara Donovan.
Brooklyn-based artist Tara Donovan arranged tens of thousands of plastic tubes from eight feet tall down to a few inches.
So Tara Donovan is taking a utilitarian product. They are just plastic tubes that you might put a poster in or something.
And she creates this wonderful landscape, luminous landscape. So by creating different sizes and working with the lights it's almost like–.
It feels like it's coming from the bottom-
It feels like there's lights coming from the bottom but that's the illusion that she's trying to create. Someone– I was walking someone around yesterday and they said it was almost like an iceberg. Each person comes with their own, their own ideas about what it reminds them of.
The fair also features these chandeliers made with uranium glass — representing nations with nuclear energy — from Japanese-Australian artists Ken and Julia Yonetani.
This series of post-apocalyptic-esque paintings of women wearing gas masks from French artist Claire Tabouret.
In this performance piece, titled "My Turn," New York-based artists Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley designed and built a 16-foot wheel, which they rotate and take turns sitting in. They call their work "performance architecture."
For folks who don't think– they might be intimidated by say, performance art. There's a giant wheel were guys literally sit in a chair and then they spin the wheel and they sit on the chair and spin the wheel.. You know how do people make sense of that or how do people appreciate it?
People shouldn't be afraid if they're going into a gallery or going to a museum. There are great docents in museums or stepping in a booth at an art fair to ask. And the dealers will more often than not just start telling you about it because they love to share. Though I would ask questions. If it doesn't make sense then ask questions and maybe it will make sense or maybe it won't. And again art is personal.
Nicole Berry took on the role last November. The previous director stepped down after allegations of sexual misconduct.
How is the MeToo Movement seen now through the art world?
Female artists, artists in general, but female artists have been creating work about their personal experience forever, if they've been oppressed or harassed. I think those are issues that have happened throughout their life if they're a woman. It's less about this very moment and reacting to that and more about their experience throughout their entire career or life as a woman.
What has social media done for this because I see people walking around, trying to Instagram and trying to get a shot of everything,right?
It's great because you can say, 'Oh I saw this great piece' and there's still nothing like looking at a piece of art in person. You know we see things online. People are even selling things online these days. But for me and I can't speak for everyone, but I do think that there's there's a really special experience being in front of a piece of art. The more art you're exposed to and that you see, the more you develop your eye. I would say that art– art that moves you in some way, whether you like it or you really don't like is– is successful. The whole reason I'm in this business — I've always said I work for a fair and it's a commercial entity, but if I if it ever doesn't become about the art, then I'm out.
Alright, Nicole Berry, thanks so much for your time.
Thank you so much was a pleasure chatting with you.
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Laura Fong shoots and produces stories for PBS NewsHour Weekend on a wide range of topics, including U.S. politics, education, the arts and urban transit. She also covers breaking news for the Saturday and Sunday broadcasts. Before joining NewsHour Weekend, Laura worked on the first three seasons of the CNN documentary series "Inside Man" with Morgan Spurlock. Through Teach for America, Laura taught first grade for two years in Houston. She has a B.A. in electronic media from the University of Oregon.
Mori Rothman has produced stories on a variety of subjects ranging from women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to rural depopulation in Kansas. Mori previously worked as a producer and writer at ABC News and as a production assistant on the CNN show Erin Burnett Outfront.
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