In 1994, four NYC gallery owners—Colin de Land, Matthew Marks, Pat Hearn, and Pal Morris—took over three floors of the Gramercy Park Hotel, invited 30 other galleries to join in the fun, and staged an art fair in the bedrooms and hallways of the space. It was, to put it mildly, a success, and 25 years later the Armory Show (as it came to be known) has gathered nearly 200 galleries from 33 countries to the vast piers over the Hudson River. This is where, for the next four days, they'll be showing and selling thousands of modern and contemporary works of art.

Yesterday on Piers 94, 92, and 90 (the latter of which was pressed into service at the last minute because half of 92 was found to be unsafe), the 25th Armory Show opened with a VIP preview, which is when most of the buying gets done. And man do these people buy! It's like a huge shopping mall for many in attendance, and historically many booths completely sell out within hours of the fair's opening, if not before. Fortunately for the rest of us, everything remains on display throughout the weekend, offering an excellent opportunity to see... not a definitive survey of the contemporary art scene, really, but more like what high-end galleries believe to be the hottest stuff right now.

There's an exhausting amount of art to take in here, and you can easily spend four or five hours wandering the aisles and exploring booth after booth after booth. More than 60 of the exhibitors are at the Armory Show for the first time, an impressive percentage that lends a definite freshness to the event. If you go see a lot of contemporary art you will definitely spot some familiar faces here (and a few tired trends), but there are also tons of new discoveries to be had as well. Several large-scale, specially-commissioned installations provide an additional degree of surprise to the day. And the people-watching is superb.

The Armory Show is located at Piers 94, 92, and 90, between about 50th and 54th Streets across 12th Avenue. The fair is open from noon to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, from noon until 7 p.m. on Saturday, and until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Prices vary depending on day and time, but tickets will likely cost you more than $50.