Art at the Armory

1990s Building Exhibitions

The run-down Armory building in which the MCA presented Art at the Armory: Occupied Territory charmed visitors.

Once it was clear that the MCA was going to come into this new property, then we built a sense of community with the National Guard. And, working with the curators who came up with Art at the Armory, which was a really interesting exhibition and it took advantage of the many architectural features of the Armory: the large gymnasiums in there; the large parade ground that was there. Different artists—A wonderful group of artists who were there, and perhaps another one of the people you interview will tell you all about Felix Gonzalez-Torres. He had the large parade ground where he—I didn't work on this, but somebody—the curators went out and looked for, I believe they were large, vintage cars that had been in accidents. And they were placed in the center of this huge parade ground with very dramatic lighting on them so that when you walked into the largest space in the Armory, you saw these crumpled cars. And it was extremely evocative. Some of the offices were turned into exhibition spaces. The gymnasiums, one was a very large wheel of hay. 

The thing that surprised us, the building was really deteriorated, and we thought people will come in here and they'll say, "Why did you let us come into this building? It's falling apart. The bathrooms are awful," and so we were trying to anticipate what we could do. So in the bathrooms, for example, the crew painted the first eight feet of the walls, and we left the rest of it where the paint was peeling and things and made it clean, but not modern in any way—functional, of course. And what surprised us was when people came in, because the building was so interesting in and of itself, people would write in the comment book, "It's too bad you're tearing this building down." And we were like, "Oh, no!" We wanted to leave it in its condition for practical reasons, but we were surprised. And so we had to really be sure that everybody understood, the people understood, that the Armory building was in a situation where it couldn't be repaired.

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