THE ARMORY SHOW
March 6 – 9 at Piers 92 & 94
The Armory Show is the big daddy of New York's art fairs, the marquee event that lends its name to the week's festivities and lures emerging and established galleries from around the world, along with the collectors who patronize them and the artists and the scrum of art-world professionals who converge on these events like wildebeests on a watering hole. This year's edition is of particular interest because its annual "focus" section is being devoted to new art from China, organized by the highly regarded curator and sinologist Phil Tinari. Everyone will want to see what he and the commissioned artist of the fair, the mercurial provocateur Xu Zhen, come up with.
THE ADAA FAIR
March 5 – 9 at the Park Avenue Armory
Technically called the Art Show, the ADAA Fair is organized by the Art Dealers Association of America at, confusingly enough, the Park Avenue Armory, and brings a select group of vetted blue-chip galleries to present work to a tony Upper East Side clientele. Known for its curated approach and inclusion of many attention-grabbing solo-artist booths, the fair also reliably has a few wild cards up its sleeve in terms of cutting-edge presentations by younger artists. Must-see displays include the solo booths by shiny-painting star Jacob Kassay at 303 Gallery, conceptual photographer Sara VanDerBeek at Metro Pictures, outsider-art icon James Castle at Peter Freeman, Inc., and the increasingly influential painter Jack Whitten at Alexander Gray Associates.
March 6 – 9 at 548 West 22nd Street
The Independent art fair, which takes place in the former Dia Art Foundation building in Chelsea, is by far the hippest of the week's fairs, showing challenging, curator-friendly work from a hand-picked assortment of galleries from around the world. If Armory Week were a high school, Independent would sit at the cool kids' table, and the fair has attitude and edgy glamor to spare. That's where I'd buy something if I were in a shopping mood. Fairgoers will want to check out the presentations of artist-run Chinatown gallery 47 Canal, Berlin's KOW and Société, Paris's Balice Hertling, and the ever-adventurous Gavin Brown's Enterprise from New York.
March 6 – 9 at 32 Prince Street
Down the food chain a bit is the Spring/Break art fair, a newcomer to the scene that is returning for its third edition down in an old schoolhouse on the boarder of SoHo and Little Italy. Run by curators rather than your typical assortment of market makers, this fair will have some quirkier work alongside real emerging finds. A highlight will be the paintings by the great Walter Robinson, a New York art world legend who just so happens to be Artspace's resident columnist.
March 6 – 9 at 500 West 52nd Street
If that's not enough fairs for you, then there's the (Un)Fair, which bills itself as a guerilla-style art show where, quote, "attendees will discover and explore a cohesive, experiential indoor and outdoor environment" that includes performance art and other arty attractions. The quality is likely to be generally low and perhaps a bit déclassé, but curiosity-seekers may have a good time there.
"ROBERT HEINECKEN: OBJECT MATTER"
VIP preview March 3 at MoMA
MoMA's much-anticipated survey of Robert Heinecken's photo-based artworks won't debut to the public until the middle of March, but if you can swing a plus-one to the museum's VIP preview on March 3, you definitely should. A pioneering Los Angeles artist whose darkroom experiments and liberal appropriations of mass-media materials put him on an intersecting trajectory with the New York-based Pictures Generation of the 1980s, Heinecken is underappreciated on this coast—but won't be for long after the city sees this show.
THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL
March 7 – May 25 at the Whitney Museum
Finally, the tentpole event of the week is not an art fair but an earthshaking phenomenon that comes along every two years and upends the art world, mints new stars, and changes the way we look at contemporary art. That would be the Whitney Biennial. Put together this year by a trio of curators, including Chicago painter Michele Grabner, MoMA media and performance curator Stuart Comer, and ICA Philadelphia's Anthony Elms, the show this year will feature a range of poets, performers, painters, artists of all sorts, and a mysterious guest appearance by the late David Foster Wallace. This show will provide grist for the art conversation throughout the year, and is mandatory viewing.
THE WHITNEY HOUSTON BIENNIAL
March 9th at 20 Jay Street, Suite 207
Taking place in Dumbo, the Whitney Houston Biennial is a one-night-only art fair that puts a humorous name on a welcome cause: showcasing work by 75 up-and-coming women artists. Created by the curator and artist Christine Finley as a feminist answer to the Whitney Biennial, the show picks up a popular verbal play that the Whitney itself fully endorses—after all, the museum's softball team is called the Houston Whitneys, and last year the artist Jana Euler used her show in the Whitney lobby to debut a large-scale painting pairing the museum's iconic Marcel Breuer building with the floating ghostly head of the late pop star.
March 7 – April 4 at 837 Washington Street
Those impish anonymous artists behind the Bruce High Quality Foundation collective are at their crypto-earnest shennanigans again with the return of their grab-bag group show of mostly young emerging artists with a few bigger and older names mixed in. Backed by the young dealer and art-world scion Vito Schnabel, the exhibition is bound to be a breezy and antic snapshot of a certain slice of the city's art scene (it could probably be renamed the Brooklynennial), and the opening will surely be crammed with aggressive fashion statements, irony, and freely flowing beer.
MOVING IMAGE ART FAIR
March 6 - 9 at 269 11th Avenue
Now returning for its fourth year, the Moving Image Art Fair—which made a bit of a stir last time around by selling a 6.5-second-long Vine video for $200—will again tackle the challenge of displaying time-based artworks in the go-go context of Armory Week, hoping to bring attention to over 30 new media artists from around the world. This edition of the Ed Winkleman-helmed fair includes such highlights as a mysterious piece by the painter Mark Bradford, a historical spotlight on Nam June Paik, and work by artists like Patty Chang, Aziz + Cucher, Daniel Canogar, and Whitney Biennial participant Victoria Fu.