An Art Fair Expands and Freshens Up
Posted May 2, 2018 11:46 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK — When the announcement came this year that Frieze Fairs, the organization that produces art fairs in London and New York, planned to expand to Los Angeles in 2019, some wondered how it would affect its extant U.S. outpost.
Now the answer is clear: The organizers behind Frieze New York, taking place Thursday through Sunday in Randalls Island Park, are retooling the fair for its seventh edition. New people have been hired. New sections have been created. The physical layout has been overhauled. And the fair’s VIP schedule has been expanded, too.
“We want the feeling that every year at the fair is different, so it’s not the feeling of, ‘Here we go again,'” said Victoria Siddall, the London-based director of Frieze Fairs.
Chief among Siddall’s moves was hiring Loring Randolph as artistic director of the Americas to help her organize and run the New York fair.
“It’s very artist focused,” said Randolph, a former partner at the New York gallery Casey Kaplan, about how Frieze compares with similar events. “And it has more going on curatorially than other fairs. At Frieze, there’s more of a sense of community amongst the people who participate.”
In terms of venue, Frieze New York was lauded in 2012 when it debuted its light-filled tent with snaking rows of booths, designed by the firm SO-IL. Frieze has become known for hiring top designers for its events; in Los Angeles, it plans to unveil a structure by the architecture firm wHY.
But it was time for a change.
Now the fair, with about 195 galleries, will be housed in a little village of five interlocking tents, a plan devised by the London-based firm Universal Design Studio. One of them, a curated section called Spotlight, will concentrate on art from the 20th century; another will house Frame, the section for solo presentations by newer galleries.
“We hadn’t really changed the New York layout,” Siddall said. “This will add a feeling of freshness and tweak issues of having one long contiguous structure.”
The people who power the event notice such things. “The galleries are the fair’s clients, technically, but the collectors are the galleries’ clients,” said contemporary collector Shelley Fox Aarons, an Upper West Side resident and New Museum board member.
She and her husband, Philip, a real estate developer, have been to every edition of Frieze New York. “You have to create a pleasant experience to get people to come back,” she said.
The new sections offered this year include an iteration of Live, a feature of Frieze London for “time-based” art and special installations, titled Assembly. Organized by Adrienne Edwards, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Assembly will include works by Renée Green, Lara Schnitger and Hank Willis Thomas.
One of the installations — Adam Pendleton’s “Black Dada Flag (Black Lives Matter)” (2015-18), at Scylla Point on Randalls Island — will remain flying for six months, the first time a piece’s exhibition has been so extended.
Another new initiative is the Frieze Artist Award, a version of a prize given at the London fair. The inaugural winner, Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga, has created the large sculpture “Shady,” a series of large fabric panels installed at the entrance to the fair.
Overall, the fair is doubling down on its U.S. character, a development at least partly related to the Los Angeles expansion plans. This year, about 21 Los Angeles galleries will take part in Frieze New York, three more than last year. New entrants include Chateau Shatto and Anat Ebgi.
“The connection with the West Coast has grown, and it has fueled the New York show,” Siddall said.
But New York is still the center of the art world, and the fair’s roster of Big Apple galleries has also increased, to around 78 this year, from 74. New galleries include Andrew Edlin, Essex Street, Kaikai Kiki and Pierogi.
“People want to support their own city,” Randolph said.
One of those New Yorkers, dealer Jack Shainman, said that Frieze New York created a good backdrop for his artists.
“You can show quieter things, and they can still have resonance because the fair is very beautiful,” said Shainman, who is presenting a variety of artists in his booth in the main section. “We want to look like a group show, but a museum group show.”
Included is a round work by artist Nick Cave, “Tondo” (2018), that is 6 feet in diameter and made of metal, wire, bugle beads, sequined fabric and wood. “These pieces take him almost a year to make,” Shainman said. “They undulate and change color as you move around them.”
Also on view is Geoffrey Chadsey’s “Kushn” (2018), an image of a top-hatted figure done in watercolor pencil on Mylar. Shainman, who is doing a concurrent show of Chadsey’s work in one of his two Chelsea gallery spaces, called the artist a specialist in “cryptic, surreal and gender-fluid portraiture.”
Although Shainman is presenting what could be called a mixed-grill lineup, many dealers are choosing solo presentations this time.
“I think that people are pulled in so many directions now, and dealers want to be more focused and rigorous about what they’re showing, to make a more succinct statement,” Randolph said.
Brussels-based dealer Xavier Hufkens said that a solo booth “shows commitment, and it takes away the sense of marketplace a little bit.” He added, “It’s an oasis of rest, and I want to give that to people.”
In the main section, Hufkens will be displaying a handful of paintings and sculptures by British artist Tracey Emin, including the small bronze “I Held Your Heart” (2017). “She has no American gallery at the moment, so I thought this is a perfect occasion to do something,” Hufkens said.
He has been showing at Frieze New York for five years, and part of the appeal is the out-of-the-way location; many visitors choose to take a ferry to the island, although there are other options.
“I like the ride out,” Hufkens said. “Going there on a boat has a certain a romance.” Of course, one man’s romance is another man’s schlep. “It’s a bit tricky getting there,” said Stefan Benchoam, a director of the Guatemala City artist-run gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta.
But Benchoam said the trip was definitely worth it for Proyectos Ultravioleta, which attended fairs around the world and was making its second appearance at Frieze New York.
“New York is the city with the most collectors in the world,” he said. “It’s a big gathering point.”
For the Proyectos Ultravioleta booth in the Frame section, the gallery is devoted to the work of Jorge de León, who is based in Guatemala. On view is a series of simple, untitled line drawings from de León’s “Homo-Logo” series showing faceless figures in a variety of positions, including looking in the mirror and lying on the floor.
Benchoam said that de León learned to draw when he was a young man in a gang, making tattoos. De León went to art school and embarked on a career depicting urban situations.
According to the artist’s website, most of his works are “linked to the body and how it acts in determined contexts, like the city and its eternal contradictions.”
Despite the whimsy of the drawings, Benchoam said, “It’s the work of someone who has lived through violence.”