Eric Shiner Has His Eyes on the Prize At the Armory Show

After leaving the Warhol Museum, newly appointed Sotheby's VP Eric Shiner debuts his Platform project at the Armory Show.

Michael Slenske

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Dorian Gaudin's Missing You, 2016

“I always keep my mind very open to new projects if they make sense and being a natural born curator I just love showing things to the public in as wide a variety of places as possible,” says Eric Shiner, as he guides me through his latest curatorial effort, the debut of the Platform section at the Armory Show. With works from 13 international artists, Platform is meant, according to the fair’s press materials, to stage “large-scale artworks, installations and site-specific commissions across Piers 92 & 94…that activate the fair’s unique industrial space.”

The project began when Shiner was still the director of the Andy Warhol Museum. He completed Platform just before he left the Pittsburgh institution—after six years at the helm—for a new position at Sotheby’s this summer. “I achieved everything I wanted to achieve in Pittsburgh: I got the museum back on its feet; got finances back in order; got us back on the world map; and my last show was the Warhol-Weiwei show,” explains Shiner as we stroll past a 63-foot long polychromatic painting on Pier 92 by Jun Kaneko, which the Omaha-based artist installed in a curved formation as a barrier to between the Jarrett Gregory-curated Focus section and the VIP Lounge. “I didn’t feel I could top that show there and I felt like I was hitting a glass ceiling in Pittsburgh for what I wanted to achieve, so I realized I would be very happy to come back home to New York.”

In the early aughts the Pittsburgh-born Shiner was focused on writing, teaching and independent curation in New York with a focus on Chinese and Japanese contemporary works. Of course, Shiner made a big impression on the city—and the Armory—during his Warhol tenure with his 2013 curation of the Focus section highlighting the work of US artists. As he discusses the differences between that effort and this one—namely the freedom to do whatever he wants—Patricia Cronin greets us beside a restaged version of her 1997 mixed media installation, Tack Room, which debuted at White Columns to raves two decades ago.

“They took the hay away,” says Cronin with a laugh.

“Seriously?” asks Shiner.

Eric Shiner

“Yeah, they said it was a fire hazard,” adds Cronin, walking us through the updated work, which is filled with everything from a 1998 issue of Polo magazine with Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour embracing on the cover and an advertisement for riding attire featuring two porn stars to Degas-like bronzes of toy horses, a short story someone wrote about Cronin and dialoguing accoutrements bought in tack shops (leather harnesses, riding crops, and saddles) and sex shops (dildos, leather harnesses, ass-less chaps). “It’s about competition and winners and losers and how we create and deny value in the art world. In one part I’m going to become a really successful artist and get my own horse and in another I’m reliving an adolescence I never had, so it’s a total fantasy.”

The fantasy continues toward the Pier 92 entrance where Missing You, Dorian Gaudin’s new kinetic sculpture, rolls along a 20 foot path in unexpected bursts—“like a steamroller that looks like it’s going to kill you”—that was intended to mimic the current instability in the worlds of art and politics.

Douglas Coupland’s Towers, 2014

“For me, this project started by thinking about artists I haven’t got a chance to work with and what would work here and what would be surprising and political, but subtly so, because that’s how I tend to do my political stances,” says Shiner as we walk past Abigail DeVille’s Sarcophagus Blue, which the artist had assembled from the flotsam of previous installations—namely painted mannequin legs and a row boat—the night before. “It makes people think and then come to a conclusion.”

Just past the stairs connecting Pier 92 to 94, Shiner combined Per Kirkeby’s Mönchengladbach (1986) and Lawrence Weiner’s CAREFULLY BALANCED ON THE EDGE OF A HOLE IN TIME (1999) in the shadow of Drifter, Studio Drift’s levitating Instagram-sensation at the Pace booth. As we egress the fair we encounter a plinth of Douglas Coupland’s shellacked Lego towers, a suspend wooden cock sculpture from Ai Weiwei—“for the year of the rooster,” according to Shiner—and a piano suspended above the Pommeroy champagne bar by Sebastian Errazuriz, as the artist had done for his 2015 survey at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Photo of the author taken as part of Fiete Stolte’s Eye project for Platform at the Armory Show

“He let it crash to the floor when that show was done with, so they’ll do it here on Monday when the fair is over,” says Shiner, who advised the Guggenheim on how to suspend car from the rotunda for Cai Guo-Qiang’s 2008 retrospective. “I’ll be interested to see if they let him do that.”

Matching the tension of Errazuriz’s work on the other side of the bar is In Chant, one of Ivan Navarro’s audio-controlled light works featuring tiles—with words like PUNCH, DAMAGE, ESCAPE, BREAK—that illuminate as the decibels rise in the surrounding environment, which appears to be high at the moment. Even though it’s only 11am on the morning of the preview, Shiner can’t go 10 feet without being stopped by collectors, curators, and artists, all of whom are glad to have him back in New York.

Ai Weiwei’s Niao shen long shou shen, 2015

When one collector stops to ask where Shiner’s show can be found, he jokes, “Mine are scattered all over, so if you see anything large or weird or out of place that’s probably mine.”

“Is that you? Are you large, weird, and out of place?” she quips.

“It’s amazing how everything is a self-portrait,” he responds to a chorus of laughter.

Fittingly, we finish our tour across from Yayoi Kusama’s phallic sculptural installation Guidepost to the New World, taking our own self-portraits—ocular selfies, that is—inside a special photo booth created by Albertz Benda for Fiete Stolte’s Eye project. Just after his Platform project was announced, the German artist was named one the artists in the Venice Biennale.

Yayoir Kusama Guidepost to the New World, 2016

“Everything reflects in your eye, so I made a technical device to take your portrait. It’s a very simple experience,” says Stolte, pointing to a tiny bust of myself reflected back onto my pupil in the passport-sized thermal sublimation print, which is delivered to each participant within minutes. “It just equalizes everything, it’s just one eye, one moment.”

When Shiner gets his print from the artist, he shouts, “Oh, I look so evil, it looks like the evil eye,” flashing his arched eyebrow Stolte selfie to a crowd of onlookers. “That’s fantastic.”


Courtesy of The Armory Show