New York Armory Week 2014: Getting There Ben Austin’s Diary Day 1

My trip out to New York was relatively stress free, bright and breezy in fact, no waiting checking in (Virgin staff, resplendent in red being happy and helpful), nor was there a queue at security (all that disrobing, laptops and belts pretty painless). Loads of time, to pick up some Fortnum and Mason tea and biscuit for my uncle and aunt, who kindly put me up or put up with me during my sojourn in New York.

A pint (yes it was before midday, but in an airport social norms don’t count, it is after 5pm somewhere in the world, right?) and a chance to excitedly change my Facebook status and check in at Terminal 3, going to New York.

Fred Mann commented that we must be on the same flight and I wrote yes we are as I can see you in the departure lounge, so of course I went over to say hi. He is taking Dan Combs to Volta.  Dan is a terrific painter, extended and distorted figures seemingly at times merging into the landscape.

Boarded the plane and waited for Frankie Shea of the Moniker art fair to join me (we had been in touch before and sorted the seating plan together).  Zavier Ellis of Charlie Smith came down the aisle, Zavier is also doing Volta and I saw him only a few nights ago at an opening at the Lion & Lamb.  Frankie made the flight in time and he was with a fun companion called Emily Johnson, whose family were part of the Wedgewood dynasty and Emily had set up a company called 1882. 1882 commissions artists for their range of mugs and crockery, giving a modern twist on a great British manufacturing tradition.

Emily and Frankie are doing collaboration alongside the multitalented writer and curator – Lori Zimmer (Art Nerd) at Scope, entitled ‘We speak the same language’ a playful British artists vs. American artists dynamic. This sounds fun and lively. I’m looking forward to their party on Thursday night too.

We all chatted merrily for a while, Frankie telling me about Moniker and how they have teamed up with The Other Art Fair, which works well for both parties. He also has a big project happening at the Olympic Park, which sounds really cool.

We dived into the in flight entertainment system and even on the pokey screen I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and then was disturbed and captivated (so to speak) by ’12 Years a Slave’, powerful stuff. Frankie watched it too and was similarly moved by this display of man’s cruelty.  The film deserved all the accolades won at the recent Oscars and the director – Steve McQueen as we know is a respected visual artist. I enjoyed (although probably not the right word) ‘Hunger’ which was stunningly shot, I haven’t seen ‘Shame’ and have heard mixed reviews of it.

Time then for some more light hearted chitchat before landing. Off the plane and into the thankfully fast moving line at immigration, chatting to Zavier (he had also watched the slave movie) all the way to the bored official at the counter, usual paw prints and mug shot routine.

Out into the slower moving line for taxis into the City, once outside of the terminal building I was hit by the blast of icy air, damn it is cold here. So, was pleased to be in the cab, the whole journey I chatted to my African driver, about English football (he was a Arsenal fan) and even about racism. He was working late nights and studying computer science by day at college, here was in a small way was the American dream in action, for those willing to work for it, there are opportunities in the home of brave and the land of free.  I gave the guy a healthy tip and wished him well as he dropped me off on the Upper East Side.

In its sixteen years, The Armory Show, America’s leading fine art fair devoted to the most important art of the 20th and 21st centuries, has become an international institution, bringing artists, galleries, collectors, critics and curators from all over the world to New York every March. Armory Arts Week strives to take advantage of this yearly convergence of the world’s top collectors and art enthusiasts by proudly consolidating and promoting a diverse selection of our city’s own cultural offerings.

Tomorrow I will embark on the press preview of the Armory and then go onto the Armory party at MoMA.