Frieze New York: Cultural Temple Or Just Another Trade Show

There are no words for the fatigue I felt after five full hours on my feet, traversing the 29 countries represented in 190 galleries on 250,000 square feet of Frieze Fair floor. I left Brooklyn early morning in the rain to catch the (bumpity bump school bus) shuttle from the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper Eastside to Randall’s Island in time for the opening of Frieze’s VIP preview event. Let me just say that by the time I got home in the evening my cell phone and my body’s battery were on 10%. Unfortunately, all I could think about when I got home was how tomorrow I had another self-imposed command performance to do some of the nine other satellite fairs as well as go back to Frieze for a re-cap. The question is WHY?

 I asked one of my friends, (who said I could identify her as a rank and file mid-level collector), what propels her to march through the fairs. She said she “wants to see what is out there and what is celebrated. How are the values of our current culture being immortalised?”  While she felt that the fair is a highfalutin’ flea market, with big box galleries dominating the end of aisles, she did say “every now and then something transcendent happens!” For her, it was Dan McCarthy’s large ceramic vase-like “facepots” at Anton Kern’s booth. Dan McCarthy, a fluid and free painter with child-like abandon, seems effortlessly able to express his simple yet compelling cartoon-like characters into three dimensional wonder.

There are ceramic works EVERYWHERE. Trending alert! Artists like Linda Benglis, known for wax paintings and sculpture of bronze and poured latex, is now tres colourful in her various 2013 glazed ceramic, folded forms at Cheim & Read’s booth. Even the noted photographer Walead Beshty gets his hands into clay with a 2013 ‘ceramic Suro slip cast remnants, glaze and firing plate’ at Regen Projects booth. David Shrigley, (who is in multiple booths) has a simple elegant ceramic “Boots” at his NY dealer’s booth, Anton Kern.  Note that the Anton Kern booth had the Dan McCarthy clay “face pots,” and the David Shrigley piece is dated 2010. They also have on their booth’s desk/table a quiet selection of Shio Kusaka ceramic vases akin to the ones that stood out in the Whitney biennial’s show. So Anton Kern is ahead of the curve with the Ceramic momentum. Also, ceramically speaking, scattered around the fair are Jessica Jackson Hutchin’s sculptural assemblage with clay blobs dripping over wood chairs or painted couches. She too previously worked in paint. The top of the line, for my money, are the ceramic works of Betty Woodman, seen in the back of Salon 94’s booth. She is 80 years old and has always worked in ceramic, topping the genre’s hierarchy.

Ok, so here let me note the most expensive and least expensive newcomers. As you enter the fair, south entrance, first thing is a large wall of 10 large black and white framed female photographic portraits. They all look very Jackie O in stylish sunglasses but the text inlaid on the images gives accounts of women who have been subjected to abuse and violence and sought refuge in shelters. The artist, Sanja Ivekovic, is Croatian and the gallery, Espaivisor, is in Valencia, Spain.  Asking price per image (all in edition of 5) is 50k! The entire suite of 10 images can be had for 220k! On the opposite end of the $pectrum are the lovely poetic paintings by a young Belgian woman Nel  Aerts (pronounced ‘arts’). She is aptly named as her personal expression of dream-like characters recall the distant noble aim of the early Blaue Reiter surrealist movement. The British gallery Carl Freedman was only asking between 6-12 K for these unique and masterful works.

While we are on the subject of prices and shopping for art it needs mention that the VIP preview was uncomfortably packed. I noticed on the following day, first day open to the general public, that the visitor population was pleasantly only 1/3 of the VIP event. Wait time for a (much needed) coffee was also down by a 1/3. It was 45 minutes on line the first day and only 15 minutes from ordering to sipping the second day. I also noticed that the previously perched to pounce gallerists of day 1, were day 2, largely on their computers doing follow up from the feeding frenzy. I asked a few of the dealers how it went for them during the preview and most gloated very well. I spoke to the owners of REAL FINE ART, a Williamsburg Brooklyn gallery. They mentioned that this year seemed equal in sales to last year’s Frieze. They ‘did well’ both years and enjoyed meeting European collectors. Their elegant booth was titled “Frieze Frame” and was devoted to the sculptures of Lena Henke. The pieces were strangely stirring resin and fiber glass casts of saddles suspended over and embracing metal grate boxes. The artist grew up on a horse farm and the memories of the saddle floating over the grid of the urban setting expressed her current state of assimilation from remote naiveté into the bustle of New York’s art world.

Words/Photos Lizanne Merrill © Artlyst 2014   Lizannemerrill on Instagram See More 

Top Photo: Sanja Ivekovic spaivisor gallery

Below: Left  Nel Aerts Carl Freedman Gallery  Right  Lenexa Henke Real Fine Arts Gallery

Below: Left  Linda Benglis Cheim & Read Gallery  Right  David Shrigley Anton Kern Gallery

Below: Left  Al’s grand hotel (1971) with pulp fiction (2014) Frieze Project  Right 
Betty Woodman Salon 94 Gallery

Below:  Katherine Bernhardt Canada Gallery

Below: Jessica Jackson Huchins Timothy Taylor Gallery

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