FRIEZE NEW YORK stirs a pot that already contains a witch’s brew of its own making.
Two days before the fair’s opening, for example, Fergus McCaffrey inaugurated his nine-thousand-foot duplex on West Twenty-Sixth Street with the work of Natsuyuki Nakanishi, a seventy-nine-year-old Japanese artist of major repute in his country now getting his first solo exhibition in this one. Next door, Alexander Gray ushered guests through the new, ground-floor entrance to his second-story gallery, while Mika Rottenberg drew a grazing Chelsea herd to her kinetic debut with Andrea Rosen, where three ponytails flipped their handmade wigs through a wall of the centerpiece video’s packed viewing room.
At the Norwood, Gwangju Biennale president Yongwoo Lee stood with 2010 biennial director Massimiliano Gioni to receive this year’s biennial director Jessica Morgan and guests like Whitney Museum curator Donna De Salvo, artist Gabriel Orozco, and Guggenheim UBS MAP curator Pablo Léon de la Barra. At the same, laconic Ed Ruscha was getting the honoree treatment at the Hotel Americano for his new High Line Art mural—his first public artwork in New York. “I like that it’s near trees,” he told the dinner guests, “so birds and squirrels and lizards can see it too.”
The following night was Babylon, urban jungle style. In SoHo, assume vivid astro focus returned to Suzanne Geiss. On the Lower East Side, Jayson Musson (aka Hennessy Youngman) debuted at Salon 94. Down the street, the New Museum opened several wildly different exhibitions—among them Ragnar Kjartansson, Camille Henrot, Roberto Cuoghi, and David Horvitz. Kjartansson’s was a kind of family oratorio, performed live by strolling musicians. “Come back when it’s quiet,” Henrot said. “It’s better to see my show in silence, so you can think.”
No thinking was required on this night, however. Only staying on point, a challenging goal. At that very moment, the Whitney was holding its annual American Art Awards at Highline Stages. “We’re the little engine that could—finally!” Whitney director Adam Weinberg told me at the gala. This was just a couple of hours after a hard-hat press tour of the museum’s new Renzo Piano–designed building. “I can’t wait to let the artists loose in there,” Weinberg said. Dorothy Lichtenstein, an honoree with the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Maramotti family, summed up the week best. “Contemporary art,” she said. “It takes no prisoners.”
Yet some were on the loose at En, the Japanese restaurant where Chantal Crousel, Regen Projects, and Kurimanzutto galleries gave Frieze an unofficial welcome party. Guests, naturally, tended to be from France, Los Angeles, and Mexico City but also included Venice Biennale artistic director Okwui Enwezor, roving curator Eungie Joo, Studio Museum chief curator Thelma Golden, and Documenta 14 director Adam Szymczyk, who all supped and drank as if tomorrow weren’t a few hours away. “It never fails,” said Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp. “New York is always beautiful on the days before the fair, and it always rains when we open.”
True to form, a downpour slicked the roads leading to Randall’s Island the next morning, but inside the VIP cars that BMW supplied for the trip from Manhattan, the gurgling, the heartbeats, and the blips came from recordings by Keren Cytter, Cally Spooner, and Hannah Weinberger, this year’s program for Frieze Sounds. Somehow the GPS made easier listening.
No matter. The sound of laughter, conversation, and consternation filled the fair’s big tent, where generous proportions, a sensible layout, plenty of good food, and the proximity of like-minded souls made the prisoners of contemporary art feel right at home.
Lisa Spellman’s 303 Gallery had the advantage of a forward position inside the south entrance. That may be one reason Greek collector Dakis Joannou went there first, to see a painting by Kim Gordon, who stood quietly by his side. It was probably just coincidence that Richard Phillips, Gioni, and associate New Museum curator Margot Norton stopped in at the same time, as designer Marc Jacobs swanned by holding hands with his ex, Lorenzo Martone. All that art all around them and they only had eyes for each other. But when British up-and-comer Eddie Peake passed through the booth, it was only because he was heading for the exit. “I think it’s time to go,” he said. It was noon.
An installation and hourly performance conjured by Peake was the sole focus of Lorcan O’Neill’s booth, just one of the many solo presentations that ultimately gave the fair’s third New York edition more clarity than before and—dare I say it?—actual pleasure. The single-artist booth is one way for dealers to hold onto prize material for Art Basel, where the real money is, but there were some gems here, and they weren’t just the Ruschas from galleries like Gagosian. Ramiken Crucible had no trouble pulling in collectors intrigued by Elaine Cameron-Weir’s cast aluminum panels, and Kate McGarry’s miniretrospective of small sculptures by B. Wurtz amounted to one of his finest shows yet.
Another welcome surprise was “Note to Self,” the collection of two hundred small drawings by Carroll Dunham that covered the three walls of Barbara Gladstone’s booth, where Anne Bass, Gary Garrels, Allan Schwartzman, and Beth Swofford all converged at once. The drawings were also printed in a wonderful, paperbound book available on the stand, so no one had to walk away empty-handed.
That’s poison for an art fair, but this one had the best, or at least the most useful and popular, VIP-day swag yet: portable Uovo chargers for iPhones. Even a VIP phone runs out of juice during a day at an art fair, and there was a mad scramble for the little blue chargers every time a Uovo person appeared with a bag of the goodies.
Lines were also long at the food counters during lunchtime, but the wait gave people more time to do what they like doing best at a fair—talk about the art—and other people. If Eva and Adele were absent from Frieze, it had Norman and Norah Stone. The Napa Valley–based collectors were so colorfully turned out that they could have been mistaken for artworks themselves. Norah, for one, found the fair “very user-friendly. You can’t say that about every fair,” she added.
They weren’t the only satisfied customers. “Everything I like is already sold,” said the private dealer James Lindon. “That’s good.” Anton Kern was in his own kind of heaven—a bright blue and yellow, sectioned booth designed by Martino Gamper, whose $1,000 chairs quickly sold out. “I call this the porn room,” Kern said, leading the way into his John Bock section. Gavin Brown had another hideaway on his stand—chalk paintings by Rirkrit Tiravanija hanging, storage room style, on narrowly spaced wooden panels that visitors could hardly squeeze by without taking some of the chalk with them. “I’ve given up trying to stop anyone from going in there,” Brown said.
Left: Artist Camille Henrot. Right: Curator Piper Marshall with artist K8 Hardy, collector Christen Wilson, and artist Liam Gillick.
One installation that was in no danger from collisions with collectors was Danh Vo’s gilded cardboard carton mobile, which was strung high above the floor over Marian Goodman’s open stand, untouchably far away—like the false promises of both commercial brands and nations. Though made for an exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz and sold before the fair, it was great advertising for the artist, the gallery, and Frieze. So, in another way, was the juxtaposition of Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd at David Zwirner—horrifying in some ways, hilarious in others. Yet when all was said and done, jurors Ali Subotnick, James Rondeau, and Pablo León de la Barra voted greengrassi the Pommery Champagne–sponsored, $15,000 prize for most innovative booth.
Most restful of all the Frieze Projects was definitely Public Fiction’s re-creation of Al’s Grand Hotel, Allen Ruppersberg’s 1971, limited-life caravansary in Los Angeles. The Jesus Room, complete with fallen cross, was particularly inviting. It was booked. I wanted to buy a postcard. I collect postcards. They were twenty dollars each. “Sorry,” said the receptionist. “We only have a few.”
Exiting the hotel “lobby,” I spotted a windblown Cecilia Alemani, the Frieze Projects curator, coming in from her day on Marie Lorenz’s rowboat, Tide and Current Taxi. “It’s amazing,” she said. “You should try it!”
Maybe next year, when Frieze New York arrives a week later in May—ostensibly to avoid a conflict with Enwezor’s early-bird 2015 Venice Biennale. Of course, insiders know it’s really to escape the rain.
Left: Consultant Amy Cappellazzo with dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohaytn. Right: Artist B. Wurtz.
Left: Haus der Kunst director Okwui Enwezor. Right: Alix Garcia with Tamayo Museum curator Julieta Gonzalez and dealer Jose Kuri.
Left: Artist Eddie Peake. Right: Collectors Norman and Nora Stone.
Left: Serpentine Gallery cocurator Hans Ulrich Obrist with Guggenheim Museum curator Nancy Spector and Serpentine Gallery director and cocurator Julia Peyton-Jones. Right: Collectors Don and Mera Rubell.
Left: Prada Foundation curator Germano Celant. Right: Dealer Andrea Rosen and artist Sharon Hayes.
Left: Dealer Alexander Gray and Bass Museum director Silvia Karmen Cubiñá. Right: Dealer Monica Manzutto.
Left: Dealer Vito Schnabel with fashion designer Carolina Herrera and Reinaldo Herrera. Right: Dealer Monika Sprueth with Tate director Nicholas Serota.
Left: Dealer Francois Ghebaly. Right: Creative Time director Anne Pasternak with artist Michael Stipe.
Left: Dealers Peter Currie and Daniel Buchholz. Right: Artists Lawrence Weiner and Allen Ruppersberg.
Left: Artist Charles Atlas. Right: Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs with collector Richard Massey.
Left: Dealers Ash L’Ange, Andrew Hamilton, Eivind Furnesvik, and Nicky Verber. Right: Architect Charles Renfro.
Left: Dealer Marc Foxx with collector Rodica Seward and Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffmann. Right: Dealer Niklas Svennung and artist Elizabeth Peyton.
Left: Drawing Center director Brett Littman and Parrish Museum director Terrie Sultan. Right: Collectors Amy and John Phelan.
Left: Centre Pompidou curator of American art Sylvia Chivaratanond. Right: Collector Liz Krupp and artist Jack Whitten.
Left: Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick with Getty Research Institute deputy director Andrew Perchuk. Right: Artist Marianne Vitale.
Left: Citibank art advisors Mary-Kate O’Hare and Jonathan Binstock. Right: Sarah Gore-Reeves with collector Anita Contini and architect Enrique Norten.
Left: Artist David Humphrey and dealer Rose Dergan. Right: Rauschenberg Foundation director Christy Maclear.