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September 9-12, 2021   Javits Center

Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Claudia Schmuckli, and Valerie Cassel Oliver will lead The Armory Show’s 2021 curatorial initiatives for the fair's inaugural year at the Javits Center.

The exhibition "Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World" has stayed with me for so long because it made me feel proud and showed me that there are different centers for art beyond the western canon. –Wassan Al-Khudhairi

Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Curator, Focus

Wassan Al-Khudhairi. Photo credit: Orlando V Thompson II.

Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, will curate Focus, dedicated to solo- and dual-artist presentations of today’s most relevant and compelling artworks. A highlight of the fair, Focus provides additional opportunities for galleries to exhibit at The Armory Show by offering a subsidized rate.

Q & A

What is an exhibition that had a significant impact on you and your curatorial practice?
Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World (1993) curated by Salwa Mikdadi and presented by The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) and the International Council for Women in the Arts included 70 artists from 15 Arab countries—I saw the exhibition at Nexus (now the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center) in 1995. The exhibition introduced me to artists who continue to have a big impact on the way I look and think about art—artists such as Etel Adnan, Madiha Umar, Gazbia Sirry, Suad Al-Attar, Huguette Caland, Mona Saudi, and Baya. I saw this exhibition when I was a teenager, long before I knew I would choose to work in the arts, but it struck a chord with me because I could see in the works a reference to a world I was familiar with. Looking back now I think it has stayed with me for so long because it made me feel proud and showed me that there are different centers for art beyond the western canon.

What exhibitions or programs are you currently working on?
I’m working on a group exhibition opening in March 2021 at CAM St. Louis titled Stories of Resistance. Encompassing the entire building, the exhibition will explore the many ways in which resistance takes form. Resistance may be found in the rewriting of history, exposing or filling in the blatant absences left out of the dominant narrative. Resistance emerges from within governmental, corporate, or institutional structures and systems of power. Resistance takes shape in labor movements and in actions to protect water, land, and other natural resources. Migration, movement, and exile—most often depicted as acts of desperation—are here shown as acts of agency in the face of persecution, oppression, and inequality.

What made you interested in working with The Armory Show this year?
It’s exciting to think about curating in a different space and working with galleries in a new way. The Armory Show was the event I attended before we all went into lockdown; to reflect on that and all that has happened since and channel that into a future iteration of the fair is an interesting opportunity.

[I find inspiration in] the closeness I have felt intensify with my friends, family, and community during these unsettling times... –Claudia Schmuckli

Claudia Schmuckli, Curator, Platform

Claudia Schmuckli. Photo credit: Gary Sexton.

Claudia Schmuckli, Curator-in-Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, will curate Platform, dedicated to large-scale and site-specific presentations that activate the fair's state-of-the-art venue, the Javits Center. Works in this section will be placed throughout the Javits Center, allowing for moments of pause and reflection.

Q & A

Share something that kept you positive during COVID.
The joyful and loving company of my puppy Davos who is blissfully oblivious to the turmoil that has engulfed us over the past seven months.

What exhibitions or programs are you currently working on?
I just finished the catalogue for Judy Chicago’s forthcoming retrospective at the de Young Museum which will open in August 2021 and am now fully immersed in the conception of a book to accompany Wangechi Mutu’s exhibition at the Legion of Honor. It opens in February and since we only recently got the green light to publish a book, we are working feverously on defining the content and design for this important publication. Also, with Uncanny Valley having been extended until June 2021, I hope to organize a series of online public programs to unfold monthly beginning in January.

Share something inspiring you at the moment.
The closeness I have felt intensify with my friends, family, and community during these unsettling times and the solace and inspiration I have found in my work with art and artists.

The quote that is playing in my head at the moment is from James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." –Valerie Cassel Oliver

Valerie Cassel Oliver, Chair, Curatorial Leadership Summit

Valerie Cassel Oliver. Image courtesy The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo credit: Travis Fullerton.

Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, will chair the fourth Curatorial Leadership Summit. Convening curators from around the world, the summit is a day-long, invitation-only symposium, which fosters innovation in the curatorial community through exploring, debating, and challenging some of the most critical topics in the arts and culture landscape. A public keynote presentation follows the closed-door session. In addition to the on-site summit, Valerie will chair two Virtual CLS events in the spring of 2021 leading up to the fair.

Q & A

Share a quote inspiring you at the moment.
Given the year 2020 and the events that have irrevocably shifted how we as Americans see ourselves, the call for and resistance to substantial and structural change, the quote that is playing in my head at the moment is from James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

What is an exhibition/biennial that had a significant impact on you/your curatorial practice?
I am in this field because I believe in the power of art to confront, provoke, transform and transfigure ideas, thoughts, and actions. There have been numerous exhibitions that have resonated with me, too many to name. I will, however, evoke the name, Okwui Enwesor and his 2015 Venice Bienale, "All the World's Futures." Although he is no longer here with us in the flesh the cumulative body of his work has been deeply, deeply significant. In January, the New Museum will launch his last project, "On Grief and Grievance." Okwui always had the ability to be prescient.

What exhibitions or programs are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on the exhibition, "The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and the Sonic Impulse." The exhibition looks at Southern Hip Hop as a window into the wealth of traditions, visual and sonic that has defined the African American South and its diaspora from 1920-2020. There are over a hundred works featuring artists such as: SunRa, Kerry James Marshall, Sister Gertrude Morgan, William H. Johnson, Mildred Thompson, Sanford Biggers, Allison Janae Hamilton, Chuck Berry, DJ Screw, Jason Moran, Sheila Pree Bright and many more.

Download the full curator biographies