The Armory Show in New York. Interview with artist Michael Bell

The Armory Show in New York. Interview with artist Michael Bell

The Armory Show in the weekly section MBELLART of American artist Michael Bell on Yareah magazine. Every Wednesday with Michael! Interview by Isabel del Rio

I.R.- Hi Michael. Again, in Central Manhattan, The Armory Show. As an artist from New York: what do you think of this fair? Are you going to be there? Would you like to be?

M.B.- Hi Isabel. You know, I always find it so intriguing that your interview topics for me are always right in line with whatever is going on in my life. With this latest interview, the synchronistic connection forms a triangle between New York, Chicago and Baltimore. While I am a former New Yorker and an artist who has single handedly built my career 100% on my own as an Independent with no exclusive gallery representation, I can definitely appreciate what the original 1913 Armory Show did for many American artists. And whether it was originally about shocking the public or bringing the appreciation of avant-garde European art to America, it definitely sold Americans on modern art. But, at upwards of $100,000 for a booth I have not personally participated in the current fair, although I would like to, with the right exhibitor in the future. Who knows, maybe someone after this interview!


I.R.- Is the celebrated Armory Arts Week a real influence for the city or it’s only an excuse to promote important galleries?

M.B.- Listen, in today’s fast paced world of immediacy the art world needs an excuse to promote itself. And in New York City the art world needs to make a “big statement.” After all, this is where it all began. Did you know that Department stores were actually some of the first sponsors of cubism after the original Armory Show? While galleries and magazines distanced modern art from commercialism initially, individual artists have always found unique ways to promote themselves. From Street Art Performances, traveling shows in tractor trailers – artists have always found a way to get their art discovered. Now, Social Media and Reality Television have taken center stage. Take me, for instance, I’ve been able to generate tons of publicity for my work over a sustained period of over a decade which has helped me sustain a unique celebrity portrait clientele base in order to make a living as an artist.

My journey comes full circle this spring as I make a television debut on one of my best friends and portrait clientele (Dominic Capone’s) new hit television show “The Capones” which will showcase a private unveiling of one of new larger-than-life sized “Carnevale Italiano”paintings featuring Dominic, along with a taped Chicago Gallery Exhibition of my work.

Dominic Capone III, 38, is great nephew to the notorious Prohibition-era gangster, Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone. He was recently on WJZ 13 TV – CBS Baltimore talking about his close relationship with me:

Inside look at Michael Bell’s Studio while filming one of his eight “Carnevale Italiano” serial paintings.

Inside look at Michael Bell’s Studio while filming one of his eight “Carnevale Italiano” serial paintings.

I.R.- Canonical names, from Picasso to Pollock, have been presented at the fair. Are there other equivalent fairs in the United States? For example, I like SOFA Chicago, but maybe it’s more modest.

M.B.- Well, the first Armory Show, originally called the International Exhibition of Modern Art, is probably best known for giving America its first in-depth look at the art of Picasso, Braque and Duchamp, to name a few. Salon impresario Mabel Dodge wrote to Gertrude Stein that it was “the most important public event … since the signing of the Declaration of Independence” and predicted it would cause “a riot and a revolution and things will never be the same afterwards.”

By the time the second show opened in Chicago art students celebrated the exhibition’s close with a mock trial of Henri Matisse. They convicted him of artistic crimes and burned four of his paintings in effigy. Duchamp’s nude was also the center of controversy. It inspired poems, cartoons, tirades, and contests to “find the nude.” Many critical responses focused on expectations for the nude implied in the title. The nude had been a traditional subject of art for centuries, and Duchamp had abstracted it beyond recognition.

Henri Matisse “Blue Nude,” 1907. Oil on Canvas. 36” X 55”. The Baltimore Museum of Art.

Henri Matisse “Blue Nude,” 1907. Oil on Canvas. 36” X 55”. The Baltimore Museum of Art.

Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending Staircase No. 2” 1912. Oil on Canvas. 58" × 35".  Philadelphia Museum of Art

Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending Staircase No. 2” 1912. Oil on Canvas. 58″ × 35″.
Philadelphia Museum of Art

M.B.- Now, the art fairs have taken its place. The Armory Show, Art Basel, to name a couple biggies. This year there are 203 galleries representing 29 countries, with 145 galleries on Pier 94 in the main, Contemporary section, and 58 galleries in the booths on Pier 92 in the Modern section. The Armory Presents and Armory Focus: China sections will both feature 17 galleries. So, there’s my take on it, and the intriguing connection I alluded to earlier Isabel, which spans from New York to Chicago to Baltimore.

Here’s a couple last interesting links for your readers. This one talks about Chuck Close’s “Famous Faces” at the Armory 2014. I’ve met Chuck in New York. He’s a standup guy who spoke up against the critics that blasted Eric Fischl’s portraits show back in 2012 at Mary Boone and personally find him and his story very inspiring.

Here’s a nice blog highlighting the 2014 Exhibitors:

Finally a link to the original Armory Show, which details its history at:

And here’s where to find the current Armory Show online:

I.R.- Enjoy the week, Michael.

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is renowned American painter and muralist, famous for his larger-than-life sized narrative series paintings and for his infamous portrait clientele, which includes the late Mob Boss John Gotti, best friend Dominic Capone III (Al Capone’s great nephew) and numerous actors from The Sopranos, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and more. Yes, his works are the mirror of a tragic world, but they deepen our human psychology with strong brush strokes and vivid colors, from personal memories and silent echoes, with courage and creativity. Bell was naturally gifted in art and won 1st Place in his first juried art exhibition at age 5. As an emerging artist he spent a lot of his time in and around New York City, studying art with his maternal grandmother, Violet Vallery, a self-taught artist from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Then, after the still-born death of his sister Amanda and the sudden passing of his Grandfather, a former professional boxer, Bell began to explore life's personal and psychological issues through his paintings. In addition, Bell has written his first screenplay based on the real-life events surrounding his famous "TICKET TO RIDE™" painting series and has won three national awards in 2013. Bell exhibits his large, narrative series paintings in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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