Mary Sibande & Beverly Fishman: The Armory Show shocked the art world in 1913. Here’s what to expect this year

Beth Harpaz, Forward, September 9, 2022



200 galleries from 30 countries offer up art this weekend in New York — including, of course, work by a number of Jewish artists.


The Armory Show is back for its annual run in New York. The exhibition is a venue for art presented by more than 200 galleries from 30 countries, including work by a number of Jewish artists. This year’s show has a focus on Latin American and Latinx art, with themes including environmentalism, race and gender. Not surprisingly, the pandemic also crops up as a theme in some works. 


The massive exhibition is only here for the weekend, and it’s downright impossible to take it all in. But if you’re an art lover, you’ll want to try. Here’s what you need to know.




The original Armory Show took place in 1913 at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and 25th Street. The exhibition of avant-garde impressionism, fauvism and cubism revolutionized the art world. It was the first time Americans were seeing work by Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp, van Gogh, Munch, Gauguin and many others. 


Camille Pissarro was among the Jewish artists represented at the original show, along with Paul Burlin, Elie Nadelman, Jo Davidson, Abraham Walkowitz and William Zorach. American artists included Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper and James Whistler.

The show’s contemporary incarnation dates to 1994, when four New York art dealers organized an international art fair at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Five years later, the Gramercy International Art Fair moved to the 69th Regiment Armory and was renamed the Armory Show in a nod to the 1913 exhibition. The fair was staged on piers on Manhattan’s West Side for two decades, then moved to its current site at the Javits Center last year. There’s also an offsite component in venues that this year include Times Square and the U.S. Open.


What you’ll see


Mary Sibande’s “Ascension of the Purple Figure” is prominently displayed in The Armory Show’s “Platform” section. Sibande depicts a lifesize female figure on a pedestal draped in purple, a sculptural homage to protesters in South Africa whom police sprayed with purple ink so they could be easily identified.


 Jewish artists


Beverly Fishman’s “Untitled (Pain, Pain, Anxiety, Pain, GERD),” shown by the Kavi Gupta gallery, offers sentiments related to the pandemic. The piece includes a heart symbol amid pastel geometric shapes. An accompanying text by the artist says the heart is an “abstraction of the V in valium,” a reference to women being given valium for “their nerves.” Fishman says in the text that she is driven by “the medical stuff, the pain. I have a few single friends that almost lost their minds during the pandemic, they were so isolated from everyone. It’s real. The pandemic has caused a lot more distress. So if it feels like love, baby, let’s go for it.”

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