New York City has it all– including London’s hottest art fair. Frieze New York made its debut this weekend on Randall’s Island off the coast of Manhattan. Normally based in Regent’s Park, London, the Frieze fair showcases over 170 contemporary art galleries in a unique space.
New York and foreign accents mingled in the massive, custom-made tent and sculpture garden during Frieze’s sold-out weekend run. The fair ends Monday but tickets are sure to be in short supply.
Scroll down for photos of the first annual Frieze New York festival. For the names of the artists who created these works, click on the photos to arrive at Downtown Traveler’s Flickr page (artists are credited in the photo titles).
After purchasing timed tickets for a 12PM entry, I boarded a ferry on Manhattan’s East Side with independent curator Krista Saunders (also known as the Bespoke Curator). The outing took on the air of a weekend getaway, as we snapped photos of the Chrysler building and reminisced about the recent Armory Arts Week shows. That series of art fairs in March set the bar quite high and we weren’t sure what to expect of Frieze.
From the moment we stepped on Randall’s Island, we knew we were in for a treat.
Sculptures were placed throughout Randall Island’s perfectly-manicured park, which was dotted with picnic tables. Many of the artists were well known and had instantly recognizable work, like Louise Bourgeois with her silver beehives; others were new to me, like Jeppe Hein, the creator of a mirrored cube that drew a steady crowd. During our 15-minute walk through the sculpture garden I spotted several shopping carts stuffed with plastic bags; these would normally be associated with homelessness but in this context was almost certainly a work of art.
I spotted a hot new trend in my last art world outing: zombie art. While there was at least one depiction of the “living dead” art at Frieze, a more popular theme was the apocalypse and its close companion, the conspiracy theory. Several works hinted at the end of days while others searched for government conspiracies in media clippings. Thomas Hirshhorn was the main promulgator of this trend; I could spend hours dissecting the newspaper clippings and handwritten notes on his epic collage, The Map of Headlessness. Viewing a painting by artist Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, I was reminded of another side of the apocalypse: bare breasts, lips and hands merged together in a modern-day Bacchanal.
A number of galleries at Frieze New York featured Western-themed work, from cowboys to horses and native Americans. The most fascinating were a series of beaded panels by Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri that depicted American cowboys with an impressive level of detail. His wild-west characters contrasted with the busts of Cairo-based artist Huda Lutfi, who is represented by the same Dubai gallery.
If you came of age in the 1990s, you’ll feel at home at Frieze. Several artists paid tribute to the decade, including Michael St John’s homage to Kurt Cobain, Gelitin’s vintage plush toy sculpture and Anselm Reyle’s neon-colored, paint-by-the-numbers artwork.
South Bronx Project
In the only act of performance art I witnessed during my 7 hours at Frieze, John Ahearn and his colleague Rigoberto Torres prepared to cover a man in plaster in front of a growing crowd. They were paying tribute to their 1979 exhibit, “South Bronx Hall of Fame,” in which Ahearn made plaster casts of 40 New Yorkers. According to the NY Daily News, fans of the artist paid $3,000 each to have their casts made at the Frieze show.
Soaking up the scene
While the artwork was impressive, one of the highlights of Frieze New York was the people-watching. The giant tent was buzzing with energy as art lovers from around the world gathered to discover, discuss and photograph contemporary art and to make valuable connections.
Thanks to the remote location, the custom-built structure and the presence of art heavy weights, Frieze New York truly feel like a “happening.” I didn’t mind that my egg salad sandwich cost $9 or that the beer garden was so crowded I sat on the floor; those small complaints paled in comparison to the fair’s merits.
Frieze provided a classic New York experience while serving as a much-needed escape from the hum of Manhattan.
What do you think about Frieze New York?
Share your travel tips with other readers by leaving a comment below! If you are reading this post via email or RSS feed, make sure to click on DowntownTraveler.com to leave your comment.