Dog Days of Summer

The climate-conditioned glass box known as the Javits Center was a welcome respite from the sweltering conditions outside. The last time I was here was for the International Auto Show. This time it was for the Armory Show. Neither were helping the climate.

My press pass blinked green as I tapped an oversize entry terminal. My neighbors blinked blue. “Different types of tickets,” I was told by the usher. Art fairs are all about access. They are, maybe, about art.

By the entrance was a large-mirrored Robert Indiana sculpture that spelled out “love in Hebrew,” according to the bored-looking gallerist, a derivative of the pop artist’s Love in English sculpture, according to a bored-sounding me.

In the oblong “platform” area anchoring the fair, I stopped by the Pommery Champagne Lounge, where a friend who works for the fair had popped a bottle of champagne for “sponsors,” only for them to leave and drink none of it. I stepped in to help. Asked “what the vibe was,” another employee of the fair offered, “I feel like art fairs have been doing so bad but this one is going well.” I wasn’t totally convinced.

In the VIP lounge I told the attendant at the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Mallé activation that I wanted a crisp masculine scent. “French Lover,” he responded as he searched through a disorganized array of bottles. “Can you believe all of these used to be in a line?”

Lost in a champagne sea of figurative flotsam and abstract jetsam, I finally stumbled upon art that affirmed my own taste, which we’ll call a mix of “Adbusters” and “institutional critique.” In the easy-to-miss Not-for-Profit section of the fair, Stephen Morrison’s Dog Show #2: Odds of Continuation at The Invisible Dog booth, seemed to be the only art to have used the fair itself as inspiration.

Uncanny Madame Tussauds–style effigies of a suit-clad exhibitor (complete with an Armory exhibitor pass), two art handlers installing one of Morrison’s own paintings, and a pair of posh collectors, blended in with the fair patrons surrounding them. The twist? They were all dogs. Anthropomorphic dogs. “I was here for thirteen hours,” said Morrison, unusual for featured artists at the fair, who often don’t attend. Asked about sales, he suggested I talk to his gallerist, but offered “I pre-sold the two big paintings” and “I hear people mainly like big things.” And dogs. People like dogs.