Spotted at the Armory Show: 60,000 people

What can one say about the Armory fair? It’s big. It’s in a big new space that most people seem to like. There are a lot of big Audi cars outside that you can cruise around in, and small ones, too. They look very nice.

Inside, it’s all about details. Those little gem moments that you can only steal at a fair. Plus the star spotting: “Hey, Mike Ovitz is in the next aisle!” “Did you see Bloomberg at the mirror covered sanitation truck?”

Most of the art being familiar, I am a great believer in cruising the edges, those less trafficked nether regions where members of the support infrastructure of the art world pitch their tents. And it was there, on the outermost perimeter, that I encountered George Wachtel, head of Audience Research, his own research firm, which was contracted to gauge the economic impact of the fair. Wachtel’s booth — his table, really — was kitty-corner from the oddest of blue chip gallery booth postings, that of Jeffrey Deitch, who, in what must have seemed like a shrewdly calculated move, ended up across from the exit of the Illy Coffee-sponsored VIP lounge. A smart idea, to be sure, given the anticipated comings and goings of the biggest art collectors (wealth does not diminish the appetite for free food or drinks), only this particular lounge was tucked away out of sight, deep in the remotest corner of the fair, in a chilly and unforgiving Siberia that seemed to attract only a very few caffeine starved VIPs.

Anyway, George offered up some interesting numbers. 60,000 people were thought to be coming to the weekend’s major art fairs, he said. According to the Mayor, who cited other impact data at his press conference, based on anticipated visitor spending per day, those people will contribute $54 million of spending power to New York’s economy. I asked Wachtel, who is the world’s foremost authority on theater attendance, to put this number in context. He said he didn’t have the most recent numbers, but on a good week on Broadway you can count on about 240,000 visitors. (Nobody knows anything about combined gallery attendance of course.) I am curious what readers make of these numbers.

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