A Review of the Frieze New York Art Fair on Randall's Island, New York City.
'In just five editions, Frieze has made itself a requisite destination on the global art circuit. Its main value lies in shining light on some unfamiliar galleries and in bringing forward art we might not otherwise see.’ The New York Times
Over the past couple of years, Frieze New York has gained a reputation for being one of the world’s most influential contemporary art fairs with 202 galleries and 3 curated sections. Although Frieze has been running in Regent's Park, London since 2003, the New York version was only launched by Frieze Magazine in 2014. It's a testimony to the prestige upheld by the fair that New Yorkers have been convinced to leave their beloved Manhattan and journey to the elusive Randall’s Island. From there, one can look out over the East River to the concrete jungle where more than two hundred galleries compete within the artistic ecosystem. But, it's for only one week a year at Frieze New York that collectors, dealers and art lovers come to discover who and what the emerging trends, galleries and artists are.
If “art is seen as a mirror of our society,” Frieze New York has foreshadowed a quasi-apocalyptic epoch in the future. Berlin’s Société Gallery teamed up with the artist and Soylent flavorist Sean Raspet and brought to life the vision of Richard Fleischer’s sci-fi film Soylent Green (1973). The film portrays New York City in 2022; where millions of people are paying the consequences for twentieth century industrialisation and urban life is wracked by pollution and infection. The city is only able to survive because of the highly nutritious plant Soylent Green. At Frieze, visitors are greeted by a trendy gang of gallerists and models wearing futuristic gray jumpsuits designed by Berlin-based stylist Nhu Duong. Made out of a gray microfiber material, the jumpsuits would make NASA’s engineers jealous.
Sean Raspet’s vision of this future was expressed in his previous collaboration with the Swiss Institute, NYC during the Pavillion De L’espirit Nouveau: A 21st Century Show Home. If scientific predictions do not sway you, then perhaps the geomancy practice of throwing cowry shells might. This is an ancient practice used to predict the future and can be observed at the Chantal Crousel Gallery, along with the concrete sculptures of Melik Ohanian Shell 2014. Ohanian’s sculptures, in turn, explore a different side to the cowry shells; and focuses on how they are also known for their historic monetary value as they were used as Chinese currency. Ohanian’s sculpture investigates the ambiguous limits between economic values and augury. As the sculpture is arranged according to the way the curators threw the shells, perhaps some of the visitors may experience a sense of revelation. Before continuing our tour, we looked into the Canada stand as well as Leo Xu Projects's Frame Section for a splash of colour to juxtapose the monochrome.
The Chantal Crousel Gallery's booth looks onto the work of Canadian sculptor David Altmejd, who presents Le desert et la Sémence, 2015 at the Andrea Rosen Gallery. In an interview with Flux Magazine, Altmejd explained how, “my work presents all the necessary steps of transformation.” From a coconut to a human head or wolf, this surrealistic cycle of evolution is made out of mirrors, latex paint, sand and synthetic hair. It leaves the viewer feeling uncomfortable whilst simultaneously attracted by this macabre vision of the evolution. Along a similarly gruesome train of thought, look out for the work of Supportico Lopez in the Focus section, which hosts innovative curated presentations by some of the world's most talented young artists.
The prominent Italian artist Loris Cecchini - seen at The Gallery Continua with Germination Rates on Four Poles 2015 - allows the viewer to see some structure amidst the chaos of the fair. He treats stainless steel on a module-based installation made of organic and organized elements. His poetic touch in exploring the potential of scientific propagation patterns, illustrates the beauty of geometrical nature. His work contrasted the abstraction seen at Studio 94 or the bold colours within the P.P.O.W booth, but that's the fun of the fair, which always has such a diverse array of styles on show.
Frieze New York wouldn’t be an art fair without the ever-imposing Gagosian Gallery. Walking into their booth, I heard someone chuckle, “Gagosian is back with Damien Hirst again. We should call them the OBA: Old British Artists.” Despite the comedy, Damien Hirst dominated the space. His impressive (and expensive) Who’s Afraid of the Dark 2002 made from the bodies of thousands of dead flies acts as a memento mori. Hirst explained it by describing his idea that, "people are like flies brushed off a wall. I like that metaphorically... If you stand back far enough you think people are just like flies, like the cycle of a fly is like your own life.”
All good things come to and end and sadly Frieze New York officially closed its doors on May 8th after a fleeting visit, but not before we had a chance to explore the Spotlight section and see the Anglia Gilbert Gallery in action. En route to the exit, we also caught Philippe Decrauzat's Loop (2015) paintings, shaped as the number 'eight' or an infinity sign, hang in Elizabeth Dee’s gallery, suggesting that the cycle certainly isn't over and next year there will be more to look forward to at New York's most important art fair.
Frieze New York ran from 5-8th May 2016. Images courtesy of Mark Blower / Frieze
Written by Maulde Cuerel, US contributor to Arteviste.com