From May 5th until May 8th, Frieze New York once again transformed Randall’s Island Park into a futuristic outdoor art bazaar, showcasing contemporary art from around the world. The Frieze Art Fair isn’t just another outdoor craft fair, the works that were on display were painstakingly curated by a who’s who of respected curators, including Cecilia Alemani, (High Line Art, New York), Clara M. Kim (Tate Modern, London), and Fabian Schöneich (Portikus, Frankfurt) to name just a few. All told, Frieze Art NY provided a platform for over 1,000 new and established contemporary artists hailing from over 40 different countries.
Visitors to Frieze NY were welcomed by a total art experience that oscillated between the pastoral and the surreal, often at the drop of a hat. The element of surprise seems to be central to the Frieze aesthetic and one of the many ways this has been achieved in the past is through high contrast. This year’s assemblage of art was nothing if not diverse and multifaceted. Frieze curators seem to have made a point of attempting to at least partially decenter the Western artistic tradition, creating a space for art from around the world to exist on its own terms. Frieze Art NY also featured nine newly-commissioned immersive installations, as well as lectures and workshops. Here are just a few of the notable names from this year.
For over 30 years, French-Algerian artist Phillipe Parreno has been demolishing the boundary between the artist, the viewer, and the art space itself. In keeping with his disdain for divisions, Parreno’s conceptual flights of fancy drew inspiration from disparate artistic and symbolic traditions from around the world. Parreno executed high concept pieces and installations utilizing virtually every medium, notably video projections and sound, and his sprawling, dreamlike multimedia extravaganzas were meant to remain works in progress until the end, with the audience playing an integral role in their evolution.
For most of her controversial career, Betty Tompkins has created large photorealistic paintings depicting sexual intercourse in extreme close-up. Not for the puritanical or faint of heart for sure, but Tompkins’ meticulously constructed works (which are built up using layer upon layer of monochromatic spray paint) reveal a level of technical virtuosity seldom seen. According to Tompkins, her gigantic portraits of genitalia in the act of coitus are a response to our culture’s lopsided sexual attitudes concerning submission and domination. By presenting her subjects up close and personal, Tompkins was able to divorce the act from its cultural context, rendering the traditionally accepted power dynamic, inert. Recently, Tompkins shifted her subject matter slightly, to explore the relationship between photography, paint, process, and the fine line between the real and the illusory.
GCC is an eclectic conceptual art collective hailing from the Arabian Gulf. While they are mostly known for creating installations and immersive structural environments, this year’s offering was strictly audible, and as part of Frieze Sounds, was played in all VIP BMW 7 Series cars at the fair, as well as at listening stations in the Reading Room. According to a press release, “GCC creates works rooted in a multi-dimensional, fictional narrative that underlies systems of capital and power across various levels of government and society.” All Frieze Sounds commissions are available for streaming at frieze.com.
Nestled among the stands at Frieze New York you may also have found the bold, colorful paintings of Mira Dancy; the enchanted images of Yosuke Takeda; the arresting and totemic models of Pam Lins; Sascha Braunig‘s disconcerting mindscapes; the diagrammatical drawings of Stephen Felton; and the list literally goes on and on.
In addition to the Spotlight section of the fair, which featured solo exhibitions by international artists who draw inspiration from outside of the Western tradition, the Focus section of the fair provided a platform for 32 emerging galleries.
Marianne Boesky Gallery presented a joint exhibition featuring conceptual artist Pier Paolo Calzolari and painter Svenja Deininger. Deininger and Calzolari are very different kinds of artists, who work in different media, but their work is complimentary, as both artists explore the menace and serenity to be found in the mundane.
The Frieze Art Fair was originally conceived by two art aficionados from London who had a singular vision for the future and direction of contemporary art, and the role of the curator in that future. A mighty task, but after founding the successful and influential frieze magazine in 1991, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp decided to broaden their scope and in 2003 the first Frieze Art Fair was held in London. After several years in the UK, it wasn’t hard to imagine a Frieze Art Fair in New York; and in 2012, Frieze NY arrived on Randall’s Island. While Frieze NY is technically a “tent show”, the aesthetic is decidedly sleek; the bespoke structures evoke kind of an ultra-modern World’s Fair for the international art community, and the visual and sound installations throughout add to the feeling that one has gone through the contemporary art looking glass. In the words of curator Cecilia Alemani, “When experienced together, these works create an enchanted atmosphere by invading a highly realistic setting with objects, actions and moments that appear too strange to believe.”
One of Frieze New York’s most welcome innovations was founded on the realization that art is even more enjoyable after a bite to eat, and barely enjoyable at all if you’re hungry! For first-time visitors to Frieze NY, it’s fair to wonder where your next meal is coming from (being that you’re trapped on an island, after all), but thankfully there was no need to worry: Visitors were able to fair sample food from a small but eclectic cross-section of NYC’s best casual cuisine. Brooklyn’s crispy-crust pizza connoisseurs already know Roberta’s, who’s brick oven bread and pizza are works of art in their own right, and neighborhood favorites Cosme, El Rey, and Superiority Burger are just a few more of the delicious food options up that were available this year.
It’s always exciting to discover a great work of art when it’s still brand new, before it has been dissected by critics and etched into the minds of the masses, or it’s had time to gather dust on a museum wall. Frieze Art Fair is one of the many (though new to New York) NYC institutions that give us all the opportunity to immerse ourselves in some of the best art today. Here’s looking forward to what’s already in preparation for next year’s show!