Frieze New York 2014

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A spinoff from the original London contemporary art fair, Frieze New York pitched its tent in Randall’s Island for its third year this May. In a city saturated with art fairs, where people have seen it all and done it all, relative newcomer Frieze New York has certainly come into its own. International and local galleries were housed in the spacious, custom-designed tent by Brooklyn firm SO-IL. Combined with quick bites from the city’s trendiest eateries such as Momofuku Milk Bar’s famous Crack Pie and Roberta’s pizza, the fair was a bold, confident, and quintessentially New York affair.

Household art names such as Ed Ruscha, Yayoi Kusama, and Damien Hirst pervaded Gagosian, David Zwirner, White Cube and the likes. Featuring renowned artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Paul McCarthy, Hauser and Wirth showcased an exhibition centred on the human body, which stood out for its curatorial approach. Marian Goodman did away with the traditional gallery booth set up, instead showcasing Berlin-based Vietnamese artist Danh Vo’s Massive Black Hole in the Dark Heart of Our Milky Way. Consisting of gold-printed cardboard American flags and corporate logos suspended from the ceiling, they appeared majestic and celebratory from a distance, but fragile and tattered up close.

At Gavin Browne’s Enterprise, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s installation piece – one of few at the fair – addressed the tension between freedom and oppression. The work consisted of a series of large-scale panels with Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa drawn on. The viewer was invited to walk through the narrow spaces between the panels, observing the slow disintegration (or formation, depending on the direction one walked in) of the sketches in each subsequent panel.

Also notable were the emerging galleries that made up the Focus and Frame sections of the fair—spaces dedicated to galleries under ten and six years old respectively, which were also more international in scope. Many booths in these spaces focused on showcasing the works of a single artist, such as Shanghai-based Leo Xu Projects, which featured the work of Guo Hongwei. Guo carefully deconstructed film stills from Oyu-Sama, a film by Japanese post-war filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi. By sampling and reorganising elements within each frame, Guo created space within space, resulting in a dual-channel film with characters and scenes identical to the original but with altered narratives. Guo’s work is appealing both visually and conceptually, touching on personal and social relations in post-war Japan and China.

Frieze New York was a multi-sensory event; besides the obvious visual stimulation, the fair’s organisers also held a number of other projects. A daily programme of lectures and conversations took place in the fair’s auditorium. Tickets to the talk featuring Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina of Pussy Riot with David Remnick ran out hours before. Frieze’s recreation of Allen Ruppersberg’s Al’s Grand Hotel was one of seven non-commercial, site specific Frieze Projects.

Originally installed in 1971 at 7175 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, visitors could book a night at the restaged hotel inside Frieze, and choose between two suites – a Jesus Room which featured a giant crucifix, or the Bridal Room, complete with plastic flowers and fake presents. Another unique project was Marie Lorenz’s Randall’s Island Tide Ferry, a handmade boat that visitors could row calmly across the East River, giving one a very different perspective of the hustle and bustle of New York City.

In its third year, Frieze New York has made its name in the city, apart from its transatlantic sister. If it can even be considered one, perhaps the only downfall of Frieze New York was its sheer size. The 1,500-foot long tent required stamina of both the mind and the body. It was nearly impossible to absorb in everything on display, but it certainly meant that there was something for everyone to enjoy.

by Louise Lui