Making the Trek to Randall’s Island
This past weekend, thousands of people descended onto Randall’s Island Park located in Manhattan’s East River to attend the sixth edition of the Frieze Art Fair New York. This year’s fair featured over two hundred galleries from thirty-one countries with works being presented by pioneers within the contemporary art world as well as emerging and mid-career artists. Frieze, which is one of the largest producers of art fairs in the world, has also staged events in London and New York previously.
Getting to the fair was quite an adventure too, and depending on the route you took included either a ferry or bus ride, or walk over the bridge to the island. However, once you arrived, there was a festive atmosphere with lots of art to see. It also included a who’s who of the art world, and a bevy of people watching over the course of the three-day event.
Frieze Art Fair New York which opened to the public from May 5-7, had a more political underpinning then previous versions. There were various talks held throughout the three days including: “Artist Laura Owens in conversation with MoMA Chief Curator Ann Temki”, as well as a reading and discussion with poet Claudia Rankine among others.
Wide Array of Mediums and Countries
This was also the first year the fair included works from the 20th century as well as a large number of works from South American countries. This impressive display of work included galleries showing for the first time from Brazil, Guatemala, Japan and Poland. This fair in particular is one of the latest instalments of NYC’s art fair craze, which takes place in the early spring. Viewers come from all over the world to see the works on display as well as experience the larger sociocultural aspects the city has to offer.
The works at this year’s fair were wide ranging in mediums, from painting, photography, printmaking, performance and video works that touched on a variety of subject matter. Although the fair did feature some works that were politically heavy in parts, it is a departure from some of the more charged shows that have recently been on display, such as the Whitney Biennale. However the Frieze fair is meant to be an atmosphere in which pieces are being bought and sold as well as being looked at.
The Celebrity Factor
The fair was sprawling, well planned and had an impressive amount of work on view. Highlights from the fair included a Leonard DiCaprio inspired performance in which the artist Dora Budor hired three actors who look like DiCaprio, to impersonate him throughout the fair. The piece entitled MANICOMIO!, featured each of the actors dressed as different characters DiCaprio played throughout his career including some of his most famous roles, Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugh Glass in The Revenant and Frank Abagnale, Jr in Catch Me If You Can.
The piece added a comical and uncomfortable element to an otherwise unique experience. The performance itself seemed to be offering a larger critique of the line between celebrity culture and the art world, which was something cultivated by Warhol in the 1960s. While DiCaprio has been spotted at other art fairs, he was not seen at this year’s New York fair.
The performance was commissioned through the “Frieze Projects” which consists of six interactive pieces that the fair puts on. This year’s theme for the commissioned pieces was set around voyeurism and also included works by Elaine Cameron-Weir, and Jon Rafman, Giosetta Fioroni and Fabio Mauri and Ryan McNamara and Adam Pendleton.
One celebrity that did make an appearance this year was Martha Stewart. Stewart’s appearance which has now gone viral, features her between two large scale portraits of Donald Trump and Snoop Dog by the artist Andres Serrano. In the picture of Stewart she can be seen giving the finger to Trump’s image and is flashing a sideways peace sign in Snoop’s direction.
A wall installation by Jeppe Hein. Entitled “Please Participate” from 303 Gallery stated “please participate, be grateful. Enjoy, focus, meditate, feel, open up, interact, smell, try, breath, forgive, wish, be aware…” The various words were scrawled across the wall in neon white and yellow lettering and served as a kind of instruction set for viewers.
Another stand-alone piece from the fair was Jon Rafman’s video installation 350 Dream Journal. The installation featured an hour-long video that included a soundtrack by Oneothrix and James Ferraro. The installation which has video game animation qualities, featured a travelling through different scenes and sometimes faced grotesque imagery.
The work of Serbian artist, Katalin Ladik, which was feminist in nature and touched on a variety of topics was on display through acb Gallery, Budapest. The black and white photographs were mesmerizing, and featured Ladik preforming a variety of gestures.
While Frieze Art Fair New York had an overwhelming amount of works on view, it was exhilarating to see the range of things various artists on a global scale are responding to. Although the fair serves as a marketplace, it is also a venue in which cultural and artistic ideas were being contemplated and discussed.