Frieze New York 2018 took over Randall’s Island once again in one of the biggest contemporary art fairs of the spring. Featuring over 1,000 artists from galleries around the world, Frieze brought together some of the best and brightest in the art world today.
Now in its 6th year, Frieze New York has made its mark in the contemporary art fair market and has helped revitalize this sometimes-complicated scene. In the process, it has helped to both bolster established artists, and bring emerging artists out to a wider audience.
It has quickly become a favorite for New York art goers, collectors, and others inside and outside of the art world alike.
Solo Exhibitions Take Center Stage
Fresh off an exhibit of his work at the MET artist David Hockney had a mini solo exhibition at the Pace Gallery booth. The British artist who has come to be known for his landscape paintings of the British countryside has brought some new paintings for this show.
This work was newer and utilized the Brushes app for iPads and iPhones and had a distinct Hockney twist. There were also other computer-generated images that were digitally manipulated of Hockney working in his studio that played into the larger computer-meets-contemporary-art theme.
Mini solo exhibitions were a trend in this year’s edition of Frieze and Pace was not the only gallery to showcase the work of only one artist. Some of the most famous artists working today also had solo works up including Tracey Emin, Theaster Gates, Arthur Jafa, Zoe Leonard, Jordan Wolfson and others.
Fresh Takes on Political and Cultural Themes
This year’s fair was not devoid of political commentary and many artists had works that engaged in this. One piece that generated attention was iconic feminist artist Marilyn Minter’s Trump Plaque.
Minter who had a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2017, offered an ironic take/satire on what the traditional plaque functions as. In Minter’s take, the president’s smiling face is depicted with a transcription of his now crudely famous Access Hollywood tape. The combination of the two is both unsettling, comical, and all too real.
Works by contemporary art darling Robert Mapplethorpe also made an appearance within the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, C20 booth. Mapplethorpe’s lush images continue to remain fresh given his complex subject matter which investigates identity, gender, sexuality and other cultural topics.
Standout Artists from Dumpsters to Documentaries
Scottish artist Kevin Harman’s dumpster installation was another interesting piece to see among the Frieze crowd. Harman, who worked off-site in Mount Vernon and transported his dumpster there underwent an intense process for the creation of that piece.
For this piece Harman worked without assistants. According to the Art Newspaper; he emptied the contents of the dumpster, washed and scrubbed it clean, proceeded to get rid of all the organic materials, then went to work on create a sense of order within this larger mess. The result was a clean, orderly, sculpture/installation that utilized materials formed into a neat cube that was organized by materials including cardboard, wood, rocks, and bricks.
Other standout artists featured during Frieze New York 2018 included Kara Walker, Erin Shirreff, Leonardo Drew, Jeffery Gibson, Arturo Herrera and Vik Muniz at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Kara Walker’s work wowed again with its sheer size and subject matter. Within “Rift of Medusa,” from 2017, Walker overwhelms the paper with a combination of collage and ink strokes and paint.
The two morphed into one another create waves and a shipwreck scene with a figure with long hair within the center. The figure appears to be holding a snack or a hose like object above its lips and the work is done in shades of black.
It is through a larger sense of powerful imagery with social commentary that has helped to keep Walker’s constantly on people’s radar while drawing on history that makes it so vital to see, especially now.
The documentary looks at the roots of the house music scene which are based in NYC. Tsang’s dream-like cinematography began to gain momentum after the release of her 2012 documentary “WILDNESS” which explored the lives of those involved at the Silver Platter, a bar in LA that has for decades acted as a haven for those in the LGBTQ community.
Kapwani Kiwanga, a Canadian artist who is based in Paris, who won the Frieze Artist award, created a site-specific installation that incorporated African cloth used in farming, tilted “Shady.” The piece used several pieces of fabric to create partition like structures that were see-through.
This piece also had more political relevance given the ongoing debate in the US surrounding the Mexican Border wall. Works such as this by Kiwanga and others are helping to raise important issues surrounding identity and race within this current political climate.
The subject matter wasn’t lost on fairgoers and other artists were also taking on larger sociopolitical topics as well related to the current administration and beyond.
Artist Lara Schnitger with the help of volunteers, staged a performance titled “Suffragette City.” The piece consisted of 30 volunteers who helped to create four one hour versions of the performance which was put on by Anton Kern Gallery.
Wearing work coveralls, volunteers marched around the fair carrying Schnitger sculptures while simultaneously chanting things such as “We are walkers, not the dogs.” The performance served as a bigger commentary for women’s rights but also is calling attention to the bigger issues surrounding inequality in the world today as well.
Looking Beyond Art
The fair also featured a series of talks given by people both inside and outside of the art world. Some included Jerry Saltz, head critic for New York Magazine, fresh off his Pulitzer Prize win, as well as academic Fred Moten who was in conversation with the artist Sondra Perry.
Moten, a professor within the performance studies department at NYU, has also generated a good amount of press recently with the release of his new book Black and Blur.
This year’s fair produced both an impressive amount of work and turnout. It is a combination of keeping it fresh, taking risks, but also having a pulse to the ground and having works that both play to this contemporary moment but also can remain timeless that is key. Frieze New York 2018 did just that and the art world and beyond is excited to see what next year’s will bring.
About the Author
Anni Irish has been a contributing writer to several online publications including Boston based publication, The Dig, New York Arts Magazine, and ArteFuse among others. She holds a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, an MA in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College, and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University.