Sophie Campbell



London at the Armory

March 12, 2018

‘It’s Tinder for art,’ says a friend about the rash of giant art shows across the world, ‘It’s just overwhelming.’ Not everyone is feeling the love for blockbusters such as Frieze London or Art Basel, suspecting they are damaging small, independent galleries that can’t possibly afford the booths or shipping involved.


Grayson Perry ‘Artist Reclining (Small), 2017’ SC

But after a visit to last weekend’s Armory Show, the giant contemporary art fair that takes place every year at Piers 92/94 in Midtown West, New York City, I have to say it was really good fun. And it’s made me want to visit some of the London galleries showing there once I get home.

The sheer scale of the piers, which were once part of New York’s 1935 Passenger Ship Terminal and occupy two levels, is astounding – and there were 20 or so London galleries to be found showing out of a mighty 198 booths.

Henna Vainio ‘Legs’ SC

The Josh Lilley Gallery, from Riding House Street in W1, had cheery plaster and steel ‘Legs’ by the Finnish-born, London-trained artist Henna Vainio. They looked like painted corrugated cardboard, but were oddly vulnerable with their shanks of muscle and exposed kneecaps. She showed some white versions in Elephant and Castle a couple of years ago.

Damien Hirst ‘Manitol 2016’ SC

Damien Hirst’s spot painting Manitol 2016 was in the Paragon show in Earl’s Court. I read that he names them all out of a chemicals catalogue he found somewhere. It was weirdly mesmerising: the colours are very pure, very perfect, each spot slightly indented, the hand-applied colour (all those assistants) absolutely even, each compass point at the centre of each circle entirely erased.

Paragon had other well-established Brits on show: the novelist/artist Harland Miller, whose sardonically-titled oil paintings of book covers reflect his preoccupation with words (he’s a really good writer); some fine etchings by Rachel Whiteread; and a self-portrait by Grayson Perry, Reclining Artist (small) 2017, so cheeky and so British in its detailing, from a Zaha Hadid catalogue to a can of WD40, that it made me feel homesick.

Harland Miller ‘Happiness’ SC

The blow-away show was that of Liberian-British artist Lina Iris Viktor at the Seattle-based Mariane Ibrahim Gallery: deep black panels patterned with melted 24-carat gold wire in dots, swirls and ripples, sometimes figurative, often not, and all displayed behind black lattice screens.

Lina Iris Viktor SC
Lina Iris Viktor SC

I had no idea she’d just hit the headlines by suing Kendrick Lamar and SZA for swiping her work for the Black Panther movie video. But she was certainly one of the Armory’s rising stars. Book me in when she shows in London.

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