No single event has had a greater effect on the art world than the Armory Show of 1913. Conceived by a group called the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS) led by artists like Walt Kuhn, Walter Pach and Arthur B. Davies, the Armory Show was planned as a major showcase of modern art to expose the American audience to the European avant garde.

The 1913 Armory Show. Image: Bettman/Corbis, Newsweek The 1913 Armory Show. Image: Bettman/Corbis, Newsweek

The founding trio went on an intensive scouting trip to Europe to select works for the show from Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh and Wassily Kandinsky. The AAPS rented the 68th Regiment Armory in Manhattan, which was designed by prominent Gilded Age architect Richard Hunt in 1904 in the Beaux-Arts style. In the massive armory, over 1,300 works were exhibited, divided by genre and country.

Outside the Armory Show 1913. Image: Wikimedia Commons Outside the Armory Show 1913. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Armory Show opened on February 17, 1913 to great fanfare and over its month-long installation drew almost 90,000 people who had read in the papers about the show's controversial content.

The show depicted art that had never been seen before: abstract compositions, distorted figures, bold nudes, brilliant colors and informal scenes. The two most notorious paintings were Matisse's Blue Nude and Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase.

Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra), Henri Matisse. 1907, oil on canvas. Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra), Henri Matisse. 1907, oil on canvas.

Matisse's voluptuous Blue Nude, painted after a trip to Algeria, had already shocked audiences six years before in Paris. Audiences couldn't identify the subject's ethnicity and were disturbed that the form was masculinized and distorted. There was such protesting against the "vulgar" work that copies of it were burned in Chicago by Art Institute students when the Armory Show traveled there.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, Marcel Duchamp. 1912, oil on canvas. Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, Marcel Duchamp. 1912, oil on canvas.

The biggest outcry was against Duchamp's Cubist abstraction, inspired by time lapse photography, which was denounced by the New York Times as an "explosion in a shingle factory." Viewers deemed the art work ugly, fractured and disturbing and were especially irritated that it was called "Nude Descending a Staircase" when there was no identifiable figure. However the criticism just fueled Duchamp's desire to reject canonical art standards and later create readymade art.

View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph, Paul Cezanne. Late 1880s, oil on canvas. Image: The Met View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph, Paul Cezanne. Late 1880s, oil on canvas. Image: The Met

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased Paul Cezanne's View of the Domaine Saint Joseph for $6,700 at the Armory Show, the most expensive piece sold there, it signaled the acceptance of the modern art that the show promoted into the official art historical canon. The Armory Show forever changed the perspective on art and ushered in a new era of modern art creation and reception.

The Armory Show today. Image: BFA. Courtesy of the Armory Show. The Armory Show today. Image: BFA. Courtesy of the Armory Show.

In 1994, a modern and contemporary art fair was founded in New York and was renamed the Armory Show in 1999 because it was held in the original 68th Regiment Armory that year. The show focuses on 20th and 21st century art that pushes the envelope, echoing the radical spirit of its namesake. This year, the Armory Show, celebrating its 25th anniversary, runs from March 6-10 on Piers 90, 92 and 94 and will display modern and contemporary art from emerging and established artists.

Zodiac, Ai Weiwei, 2018. Image: Jeffrey Deitch Zodiac, Ai Weiwei, 2018. Image: Jeffrey Deitch

Highlights include Ai Wei Wei's Zodiac series made out of LEGOs, a David Hockney drawing of Paris, Gerhard Richter paintings and a massive installation created from thousands of colored plastic bags by Pascale Marthine Tayou.

Piers 92 and 94. Photograph by Teddy Wolff. Courtesy of The Armory Show Piers 92 and 94. Photograph by Teddy Wolff. Courtesy of The Armory Show

The Armory Show's popularity has led to "Armory Week," a week of art events, fairs, gallery openings, lectures and more in New York that coincide with the show. Fairs include Art on Paper, Clio Art Fair, Independent New York, Scope Art Fair and Volta (now at David Zwirner Gallery amongst other locations). In addition, many galleries will launch new exhibitions, one of which will be the March 3 opening of Erik Lindman's first ever sculpture show at 325 Broome Street, Keith Haring's former studio, in collaboration with Emmanuel Barbault.

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