Armory Commissioned Artist 2015

by Carol Vogel published in the New York Times...


There are so many art fairs these days that organizers have to keep reinvigorating them to attract an audience and stand out from the pack.

The Armory Show next spring, from March 5 through 8 on Piers 92 and 94 by the Hudson River, will feature a section devoted to art from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, based in Beirut and London, has been named its commissioning artist, creating a work that will be on view there, as well as a limited-edition print that will be sold to benefit the Museum of Modern Art.

This is the sixth year that the fair has homed in on art from a specific geographic region, commissioning an artist to represent it and appointing a special curator to organize the section, which it calls Armory Focus. Last year it chose China and tapped Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, as organizer. The commissioning artist was Xu Zhen.

This year Omar Kholeif, curator at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, has agreed to be the curator. He will illustrate the region’s growth as an artistic center and plans to include galleries and artists from the region, as well as showcasing site-specific projects.

“It’s about journeys and migrations and the disparate cultures dictated by the context of the city,” Mr. Kholeif said, adding that he aims to shine a light on a broader notion of art history, one that goes beyond the conventions of the Western canon.

Noah Horowitz, executive director of the Armory Show, said that highlighting the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean will “give voice to a part of the art world that is not well represented in the marketplace.”

The fair will also introduce American audiences to Mr. Hamdan, 29, who is better known abroad than here, having had one-man shows in London, Cairo, and Utrecht and Eindhoven in the Netherlands, in addition to being included in group shows, like one at the Tate Modern in London. Known for creating projects that incorporate notions of politics, sound and listening, he said this week that he was hoping to create a project that will come out of a residency he is attending at M.I.T. and that he described as “looking at the way speech can be recovered from the objects.”

Though he doesn’t consider himself a sound artist, he wants to use “listening as a social and political practice, questioning what listening really is.”