Armory Show

Want to Get a Jump on the Competition? Here Are 6 Rising-Star Artists to Seek Out at the 2021 Armory Week

While timed entry and crowd control mean that New York’s Armory Week fairs are roomier than they have been at other peak market moments, sales are moving along at a steady clip. Most in demand are paintings that put a twist on figuration, whether by placing the human form in surreal, imaginary settings or by rendering it with novel digital tools.

Gone are the days when collectors clamored for rediscovered dead artists from the ’60s and ’70s. Today, they want the chance to get in on the ground floor—the first time around.

Which artists across New York’s fairs are generating the most buzz this week? See our picks are below.


Chase Hall

Chase Hall, <i>Major Taylor</i> (2020). Photo: Katya Kazakina.

Chase Hall, Major Taylor (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Who: Chase Hall (b. 1993) is a self-taught artist who explores themes of race and identity in paintings of Black jazz musicians, athletes, as well as creatures big and small (an homage to his childhood obsession with Animal Planet). His use of raw cotton canvases and ground coffee beans alludes to the history of slave labor. Instead of using white pigment, Hall leaves parts of his canvases unfinished, equating the negative space with whiteness.

Based in: New York

Showing at: Monique Meloche, Chicago, at Independent

Prices: Paintings range from $12,000 to $30,000.

Why You Should Pay Attention: At least three museums are among those trying to get their hands on Hall’s works at Independent. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, bought a painting from his debut with Monique Meloche in 2020; Chase’s solo show with Clearing gallery in New York sold out earlier this year. The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Rubell Museum in Miami also own his work.

Notable Resume Line: Hall participated in the prestigious residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and was a resident at MASS MoCA.

Up Next: A solo show with Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich, Switzerland, in April 2022.

Katya Kazakina


Rute Merk

Rute Merk, Ellee (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Downs & Ross, New York. Photo: Phoebe D’Heurle

Rute Merk, Ellee (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Downs & Ross, New York. Photo: Phoebe D’Heurle

Who: Rute Merk (b. 1991) explores the role of the digital in contemporary painting. She contrasts hard-edged shapes with sfumato technique to build up eerie and mystical portraits of androgynous, post-human characters.

Based in: Berlin, Germany

Showing at: Downs and Ross, New York, at Independent

Prices: Paintings range from $20,000 to $40,000.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Collectors and museums in the U.S., Europe, and Asia are are clamoring for the paintings. Her collaboration with fashion house Balenciaga on a series of works resulted in her first show at Downs and Ross.

Notable Resume Line: Merk’s paintings have been acquired by Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneve, and the X Museum in Shanghai.

Up Next: In 2022, the artist will have solo shows at an institution in Shanghai and at Downs & Ross in New York. She will also be included in a number of group museum shows, including at the Green Family Art Foundation in Dallas.

Katya Kazakina 


Deb Sokolow

Deb Sokolow, Visualizing a Room Engineered to Accommodate an Empath (2021). Courtesy of Western Exhibitions.

Deb Sokolow, Visualizing a Room Engineered to Accommodate an Empath (2021). Courtesy of Western Exhibitions.

Who: Deb Sokolow (b. 1974) is building up a piercing yet humor-accented body of work largely centered on architecture and how it must adapt to our increasingly damaged world—an enterprise equally informed by scholarly investigations into canonical greats like Frank Lloyd Wright and bleary-eyed “Where did the night go?” internet sleuthing into the ever-expanding vortex of conspiracy theories.

Based in: Chicago

Showing at: Western Exhibitions, Chicago, at Future Fair

Prices: Her latest series of drawings, which use mixed media and collaged relief elements to visualize the floor plans of various borderline-fantastical interiors, range from $3,000 to $10,500.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Sokolow’s work has attracted the literal and figurative buy-in of numerous noteworthy U.S. institutions from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, but Western Exhibitions founder Scott Speh said that the artist has yet to find as much traction in New York.

Notable Resume Line: Institutions that have acquired pieces by Sokolow include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, and D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (where she was also curated into the 2019 group exhibition “Manifesto: Art x Agency”).

Up Next: New works directly related to those on view at the fair will be featured in the November edition of David Zwirner’s Platform, so jump on them now before the global masses start reaching for their digital shopping carts.

Tim Schneider 


Sedrick Chisom

Sedrick Chisom, Untitled (2021). Photo courtesy of Matthew Brown.

Sedrick Chisom, Untitled (2021). Photo courtesy of Matthew Brown.

Who: Sedrick Chisom (b. 1989) has earned himself a devoted fan base with his eerie paintings inspired by a 60-page play he wrote called 2200, about a future in which all people of color have been transported away from Earth, leaving white people to engage in civil war.

Based in: New York

Showing at: Matthew Brown, Los Angeles, at Independent

Prices: Works at the gallery’s booth were priced between $8,500 and $18,000.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Chisom isn’t the only young artist working today who is painting dreamy, surreal scenes from imagined futures. But the expansiveness of his imagination (in his narrative, white people develop a medical condition that alters the pigment of their skin and mutates their features) and the skill with which he creates these indelible scenes make him stand out. All the works in Matthew Brown’s presentation—which were smaller than his typical scale—were spoken for by Thursday afternoon.

Notable Resume Line: A solo show of his work just closed late last month at the star-making gallery Pilar Corrias in London. He was awarded the 2018–2019 VCU Fountainhead Fellowship in Painting and Drawing and was a 2019 resident at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Up Next: His first museum solo show at an unknown venue… Matthew Brown’s director said “they’d have my head” if she gave any hints.

Julia Halperin


Kati Heck

Kati Heck, Vondirfüruns-theory (2021). oil on canvas, frame with messing plate site size: 140 x 110 cm / 55 ⅛ x 43 ¼ in Credit: © Kati Heck, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Kati Heck, Vondirfüruns-theory (2021). Credit: © Kati Heck, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Who: Kati Heck (b. 1979) is a skilled painter whose style mixes Old Master influences with a healthy dose of the surreal and the weird. Think of her work as a mash up of Frans Hals, Balthus, and Picabia, filtered through the female gaze. 

Based in: Pulle, Belgium

Showing at: Sadie Coles Gallery, London, at the Armory Show

Prices: Paintings range from €40,000 to €65,000 ($47,248 to $76,777).

Why You Should Pay Attention: Heck has shown at nearly every major institution in Antwerp, but she has yet to really break through in the U.S. She counts among her collectors the American hedge-fund manager Andrew Hall and the French heir Antoine de Galbert. Two of the three works by the artist at the Armory Show had sold by Thursday afternoon. 

Notable Resume Line: Heck recently had her second solo show, “Bonnie Bonne Bon,” at Sadie Coles this past summer. Her work was chosen for a 2009 show at Bozar curated by Ai Weiwei and Luc Tuymans. 

Up Next: A solo exhibition with Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp next year.

—Eileen Kinsella


Kwesi Botchway

Kwesi Botchway, Non Binary (2021). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Ghana.

Kwesi Botchway, Non Binary (2021). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Ghana.

Who: Striking portraits by Kwesi Botchway (b. 1994) were drawing serious buzz during the Armory Show’s VIP preview. The artist told us at the fair that he is drawn to characters who “are bold in the way they dress, or how they carry themselves” and has previously said he aims “to elevate Blackness and also what Black truly represents.” 

Based in: Ghana and Frankfurt (where he is currently studying at the Frankfurt Art and Design Academy)

Showing at: Gallery 1957, London and Accra, in the Armory Show’s “Presents” section 

Prices: $35,000 to $60,000

Why You Should Pay Attention: Along Amoafo Boako and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, with whom he studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design, Botchway is at the vanguard of a new generation of West African painters. His large portraits had already sold out by the morning of the Armory Show’s VIP preview. 

Notable Resume Line: Following solo shows with Gallery 1957 in Accra and London, Botchway’s solo presentation at the Armory Show marks his U.S. debut.

Up Next: A solo show at Maruani Mercier gallery in Brussels.

—Eileen Kinsella

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

The Best & Worst of the Art World This Week

Wealthy Women Spur Market Recovery – Art Basel’s market report reveals that high-net-worth millennial women are fueling the gallery recovery.

Art Fair Fare – The first major IRL art fair is happening now in New York, and sales were swift at the Armory Show’s opening day.

Sotheby’s Nabs Macklowe Trove – The auction house won the rights to sell the divorcing couple’s more than $600 million art collection.

Basel’s Big Fund – In an effort to quell nerves ahead of its Swiss edition, Art Basel created a “solidarity fund” as a safety net.

Twenty Years On – On this week’s episode of the Art Angle, four artists who had residencies in the Twin Towers reflect on how 9/11 shaped their art and lives.

A Magical Armory Experience – At this year’s fair, a witch channeling the spirit of Hilma af Klint is reading tarot cards.

Silicon Valley Backs Art Institution – San Francisco is getting a new contemporary art venue that will emphasize diversity.

Iron Age Discovery – A rookie metal detectorist literally struck gold, and the stunning trove is now on view at a Danish museum.

Christopher Columbus Replaced – Artist Pedro Reyes is designing a new monument in Mexico City featuring Indigenous women; it will replace a 150-year-old statue of Columbus.

Removing Robert E. Lee – The largest Confederate statue in Richmond, Virginia, has been dismantled and removed from sight, marking a milestone for the country.


Bannon Ousted From Italy – At long last, Steve Bannon’s far-right school has been evicted from the 800-year-old monastery it inhabited.

House Oversight Lead Demands Receipts – Representative James Comer is urging Hunter Biden’s art sales to be made public.

M+ Museum Removes Ai Weiwei Work – The Hong Kong-based museum took down Ai’s infamous Tiananmen Square photograph as it awaits government review.

Another Art Fair Bites the Dust – Paris’s local Salon Galeristes called off its event for October, even as some larger fairs barrel ahead.

Hedge Fund Titan Trumps Turkey – A judge ruled that businessman Michael Steinhardt, and not the nation of Turkey, owns an ancient Stargazer idol.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Art-World Professionals Are Ambivalent About Returning to the Market’s Traveling Circus This Fall

Just a few short months ago, the full-throated return of the IRL art event felt imminent. Now, as the Armory Show in New York prepares to open in less than two weeks, rising coronavirus rates and the rapid spread of the Delta variant have once again thrown a serious curveball at the prospect of live events. 

In late July, ARTnews revealed that 55 exhibitors of the Armory Show’s previously announced 212-gallery lineup—around 25 percent—would participate only virtually, deferring in-person attendance to the 2022 edition. Not surprisingly, most of them are from Europe, where international travel remains difficult due to constantly changing restrictions.

Conversations with collectors, dealers, and art advisors suggest that any kind of universal “welcome back” moment will prove elusive. Instead, the return to the circuit is likely to be governed by individual circumstances. Some Armory skeptics cited the fair’s proximity to Jewish high holidays and the looming start of the school year as reasons for caution.

“I am really hesitant about the Armory or any kind of big super-spreader event,” art advisor Lisa Schiff told Midnight Publishing Group News, noting that she has a young unvaccinated son at home. At the same time, she acknowledged, “It will be a hard one to not go to because people are going to be pulled to go to it.”

The sentiment was split down the middle in a mini-survey that the Association of Professional Art Advisors (APAA) conducted among 40 of its members. Half of those surveyed do not plan to travel for art fairs at all this year. Half of U.S.-based advisors, meanwhile, plan to attend Independent and the Armory Show. 

International travel remains a challenge. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the E.U. is set to advise its members to reintroduce travel restrictions for U.S. visitors, leaving unclear the prospects for those who had planned to attend Art Basel.

Corporate curators from Canada, Europe, and the U.S. are not traveling internationally at all, according to the APAA poll, and none of the European art advisors surveyed plan to attend American fairs this year. Only three U.S. respondents expect to attend Art Basel; five will attend Frieze London; and three intend to visit FIAC in Paris. Nine U.S. respondents said they were likely to attend Art Basel Miami Beach. 

The Armory Show, Pier 94. Photo: Teddy Wolff, courtesy of The Armory Show.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Not surprisingly, most of the in-person art fairs that have taken place so far this year have had a heavily regional flavor, including Frieze New York, the recent concentration of art events in Aspen, and Upstate Art Weekend in New York’s Hudson Valley.

For some, this makes Armory Week—which, despite last-minute changes, will host a considerable number of international galleries—all the more exciting.

“In my conversations with our exhibitors and collectors, I’ve been heartened by their enthusiasm for the return of fairs,” Armory Show director Nicole Berry told Midnight Publishing Group News. “We understand that for many of our exhibitors and collectors, the Armory Show marks a return to large-scale events after a long hiatus, and they’ve expressed comfort in the rigorous health and safety protocols we have put into place.”

In its new home, the Javits Center, the fair will present work by Modern and contemporary exhibitors under one roof for the first time in over a decade. Architects Frederick Fisher and Partners “have thoughtfully designed an open floor plan keeping social distancing and safety in mind while also creating amazing sight lines,” Berry said. At the center of the fair is an open gathering space where visitors can take in large-scale installations (while keeping a safe distance from one another).

The 2020 Armory Show in New York. Photo by Teddy Wolff. Image courtesy The Armory Show.

The 2020 Armory Show in New York. Photo by Teddy Wolff. Image courtesy The Armory Show.

New York-based art advisor Wendy Cromwell has three clients lined up to attend the Armory Week fairs, all of whom are eager to see art in person after so much time spent viewing it online. (Cromwell also plans to visit Art Basel in September, Frieze London in October, and FIAC later that month; for the latter, she will have an American client in tow.)

“Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m just trying to do good work, as always, and support the galleries,” the advisor said. “I think it means a lot when you show up in person.” Every one of her clients who attended Frieze New York, she noted, bought something at the fair. 

The same spirit motivated art advisor Liz Parks to float the idea to clients in early spring of attending Zona Maco in Mexico City. “I was recently vaccinated, and itching to get out of my home prison to look at art in my second favorite city, and thought they might be, too,” she said. “In the end, three different U.S. clients came with me. It was a joyful time, filled with endless art eye candy after having been in a visual desert for so long.”

With the arrival of Delta, however, the outlook has changed considerably, “casting just enough doubt in the mix to make one question one’s every move,” Parks said. That’s why she’s decided to sit out Art Basel this year. 

Visitors enter the expositions building during the VIP opening day at Art Basel. Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images.

Visitors enter the expositions building during the VIP opening day at Art Basel. Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images.

Hurdles to Travel

For many, the complex go-or-don’t-go calculus includes the fact that younger children remain unvaccinated and the school year is just about to begin. COVID-related travel hurdles also present an issue.

Earlier this week, for example, organizers of Liste, a satellite of Art Basel, sent an email alerting travelers that only Swiss or E.U. COVID-19 certificates would guarantee entry. Vaccinated visitors from outside the E.U. must submit a collection of documents to a government agency more than a week in advance to secure a certificate. (Adding another layer of complexity, not every vaccine manufacturer has been approved by the Swiss government.) 

“Aside from COVID itself, the difficulties that can arise from trying to get test results within 24 hours to board an international flight can be in itself a mini-mess, as I have found from my own family’s attempts and very last minute surprises,” appraiser Elin Lake Ewald noted. 

Many of the experts we spoke to seemed most optimistic and relaxed about Art Basel Miami Beach—likely because it is the furthest away on the calendar. Los Angeles based dealer Susanne Vielmetter reported that her gallery had just shipped its crate to Switzerland for Art Basel when collectors began to tell her they were cancelling their trips. Art Basel Miami Beach, she said, is giving galleries more time to make a final commitment, knowing that people are apprehensive.

For some, 16 months of lockdown has offered a welcome glimpse of what life might be like with less frantic art-fair travel—for good. Jonathan Schwartz, an industry veteran and CEO of art shipper Atelier 4, said he feels that these events have been headed for a reckoning ever since Miami Art Week hit 23 fairs around 2007. 

Amid the pandemic, he said, “We did such a good job of pivoting away from art fairs because there were none, that we actually don’t need to go back to them…. What if we did in fact staff up and then it gets shut down because union workers, art handlers and a few early arriving dealers test positive, and then we all have to go home?” 

“I know we will eventually get out of this mess,” he added, “but what’s the rush, art fairs?”

Schiff agrees. “I’m really going to do my darndest to fight [going to so many fairs]—and then you can make fun of me when I’m right back in the same circuit,” the art advisor said. “There are lots of ways to work more creatively and the gallery system has showed us that. With all the galleries mounting OVRs, I’m going to be there virtually—but I don’t have to go anymore.”

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

An Immersive Mixed-Reality Banksy Extravaganza (a.k.a. Exhibition) Is Coming to New York + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 27.


Malaysian Artist Arrested for Allegedly Insulting the Queen – Artist Fahmi Reza was arrested on April 23 for allegedly insulting the Malaysian queen by creating a Spotify playlist that referenced a mocking comment on her Instagram account. In response to a follower asking if the palace chefs were all vaccinated, the queen’s account asked if the follower was “jealous.” The artist—whose wry playlist included songs with the word “jealousy”—has been released on bail. (Reuters)

A Suitcase Caused an Evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – A bomb squad and emergency service unit responded to a report on Monday of an “unattended bag” outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue “with some wires [sticking] out.” It turned out to be a false alarm—the suitcase contained only old clothes. (Gothamist)

Banksy Street Art Show Comes to New York – Can’t get a ticket to the Van Gogh Experience? Try the next best thing: an “immersive exhibit” opening in New York this August titled “Banksy Expo: Genius or Vandal?” The show, which will include 80 works alongside a virtual reality experience, has toured through 15 other cities around the world. Its location has not yet been revealed; tickets go on sale on May 4. Banksy is not involved in the show. (Time Out)

Art Collectors Will Advise Leon Black’s Company – Siddhartha Mukherjee, a scientist, art collector, and husband of artist Sarah Sze, was named to the board of Apollo alongside collector Pam Joyner back in January. Now, some are questioning whether the additions were a way for CEO Leon Black to retain his influence ahead of stepping down amid controversy over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein. A rep for Apollo says the new additions “have impeccable credentials and offer significant value to the Apollo board.” (New York Post)


Armory Show Announces 2021 Exhibitors – The Armory Show in New York will bring together 194 exhibitors at its new venue, the Javits Center, from September 9 through 12. Victoria Miro, Sadie Coles HQ, and Anton Kern Gallery are among those returning; first-time participants include Galeria Millan from São Paulo and Proyectos Ultravioleta from Guatemala City. (ARTnews)

Rare Book Collection Brings in $12.4 Million – A collection of rare books owned by New York philanthropists Elaine and Alexander Rosenberg raked in $12.4 million at Christie’s New York. The sale, which had a 98 percent sell-through rate, included 17 rare illuminated manuscripts and around 200 Medieval- and Renaissance-era books. (ARTnews)


Some Italian Museums Are Reopening – The Palazzo Barberini in Rome and Venice’s La Fenice Opera House are planning to reopen next Monday. Florence’s Uffizi Galleries will open gradually, starting with its gardens, and the archaeological site Pompeii will reopen next Tuesday. (Monopol)

Meg Onli Wins Inaugural Figure Skating Prize – The curator has won the $75,000 inaugural Figure Skating Prize, which honors Black cultural workers advancing racial equity in the arts. Onli is associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. (The Art Newspaper)


How Can the Art World Tackle Climate Change? – In a roundtable moderated by Midnight Publishing Group News’s own Kate Brown, London art dealer Kate MacGarry and Berlin-based dealer Jennifer Chert of Galerie ChertLüdde, two founding members of the growing Gallery Climate Coalition, speak with ecologically-minded art duo Cooking Sections and environmental artist Andreas Greiner about how the art world can transform itself to become more sustainable. (Gallery Weekend Berlin)

The New Clubhouse Icon Is an Artist – The popular audio-only app has a new face: Asian-American artist Drue Kataoka. “I am humbled & moved [sic] to be the first Asian American woman & first visual artist @joinclubhouse ‘icon,’” she said in an Instagram post. Kakoata, whose visage will now appear on the app’s home screen, is the founder of The Art Club, one of Clubhouse’s first and largest art-based clubs, and has been actively raising money for anti-racism campaigns. (Forbes)

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook: