Armory Show Founding Director Paul Morris Resigns After 18 Years

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Morris. (Courtesy PMC)

The Observer has learned that Paul Morris, founding director of the Armory Show and, for the past five years, vice president of art shows and events for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., owner of the Armory Show, is resigning his position.

Reached for comment by phone, Mr. Morris confirmed the news and said that he is “really proud about the great programming” he has recently helped put in place at the Armory, particularly the “Focus” sections and the selection each year of an emerging artist to make an editioned artwork for charity (Theaster Gates last year), but that he “felt it was time for me to move on,” and characterized this as “a personal decision.”

Along with fellow New York art dealers Pat Hearn, Colin de Land and Matthew Marks, Mr. Morris was one of the founders of the Armory Show in 1994. At that time, it was called the Gramercy International Art Fair and took place at a range of locations, including the Gramercy Park Hotel and Los Angeles’s Chateau Marmont. When the economy improved in the late 1990s, the group moved their fair to New York’s 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and East 25th Street, and rechristened it the Armory Show.

After the deaths of Ms. Hearn and Mr. de Land, in 2000 and 2003, respectively, Mr. Morris closed his gallery, and concentrated more of his time on the Armory Show. In 2007, Mr. Marks and Mr. Morris sold the fair to Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI). Since the early 2000s, the fair has taken place on the piers on the far West Side of Manhattan. The most recent edition took place in March 2011 with 274 modern and contemporary art galleries.

Five years ago, MMPI appointed Mr. Morris as vice president of art shows and events, in which capacity he worked with the teams that ran all of the company’s art properties, including Art Toronto, the Volta fairs in New York and Basel, the now-defunct Art Chicago and the Los Angeles fair Art Platform, which opens its sophomore edition on Sept. 27.

The most recent addition to Mr. Morris’s team at the Armory Show, last year, was managing director Noah Horowitz, who works on the contemporary section of the show, on Pier 94, along with managing director Michael Hall. Deborah Harris has been responsible for the “Modern” section, on Pier 92. “The team is great,” Mr. Morris said. “I loved working with them. I learned a lot from Noah, and Debbie built an incredible pier.”

Update, 4:50 p.m.: The Armory has confirmed that Mr. Morris will not be replaced. Messrs. Horowitz and Hall will oversee Pier 94, and Ms. Harris will focus on Pier 92.

Asked about his plans for the future Mr. Morris said he is unsure whether or not he will return to art dealing. He still works with Robert Crumb, who is also represented by the David Zwirner gallery, and said that he had “an amazing time” working with Zwirner on Mr. Crumb’s recent exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

“It’s premature to say,” Mr. Morris said, when asked about his plans. “I turned 50 last October, and that makes you think about what you want to be doing for the next 10 years.”