Five Highlights from Frieze Week 2013

By Caitlin Parker

For one week each year, the small and mostly uninhabited Randall’s Island is transformed into the epicenter of the international art world.  In May 2012, successful London-based Frieze Art Fair expanded to New York for the first time, giving the long-running Armory Show (held every March on Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson) some serious competition for biggest NYC art fair.

Despite the intermittent thunderstorms this past weekend, hundreds of visitors per day boarded ferry boats from Manhattan to see the second edition of the fair.  What may seem like an unlikely spot for such an event is actually a perfect backdrop, with a large open park to accommodate the expansive tent, which is surrounded by terraces with various food vendors and riverside pathways dotted with outdoor sculpture.  En route to the fair, the ferry ride offers a refreshing escape from the city and unbeatable views of Manhattan, making the trip into an adventure.

Like other major international art fairs, Frieze gathers the biggest galleries, the wealthiest collectors and work by the hottest contemporary artists under one roof.  And as with other major fairs, this creates a ripple effect, making this week the prime time to host any art-related event.  Frieze Week was jam-packed with satellite fairs, gallery openings, galas, film screenings, artist talks, auctions, parties and after-parties.  With so many options it is always daunting to decide which events to see and be seen at.

Here are 5 (well, 6) Highlights from Frieze Week 2013.

1.  Frieze New York: May 9-13

The main event opened on the afternoon of Thursday, May 9th with a private VIP preview, and opened to the public on Friday, May 10th.  Upon stepping off the ferry, fair goers were greeted by Paul McCarthy’s gigantic red balloon dog, a jab at Jeff Koon’s famous Inflatables (see number 3).

The spacious white tent, airy and light-filled, provided the ideal viewing experience, with benches interspersed throughout the tent, plus two VIP lounges to relax once the inevitable “fair fatigue” sets in– there is an overwhelming amount to see here: Frieze boasts more than 180 galleries exhibiting over 1,000 artists.

Cafes by popular NYC restaurants including Sant Ambroeus, The Fat Radish, Mission Chinese Food, and Roberta’s Pizza served food, beer and bubbly.  Artists including Matthew Day Jackson and Tina Girouard took turns as guest chefs at FOOD, a recreation of the legendary artist-run restaurant opened by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden in SoHo in 1971.  The fair even had its own speakeasy, The Vault, a participatory artwork by Liz Glynn, to which access was secured only if you were lucky enough to be one of the randomly-selected visitors to receive a key.

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2. PULSE Art Fair, May 9-12

Held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street, PULSE is in the top tier of the so-called “satellite fairs” which surround any main fair.  Held annually in Miami and New York, PULSE always delivers with a well-curated fair with a variety of exciting contemporary works by both established and emerging artists.

The IMPULSE section of the fair highlights a select group of emerging artists in solo booths, one of whom is awarded the PULSE Prize.  This year the winner was Marjolijn De Wit, whose mixed media works are represented by Milan gallery Otto Zoo.

The PULSE Projects program presented three ongoing performance pieces, including a reprise of last year’s popular Couldn’t Remember What We Came To Forget, in which artists Liza Lozano and Tora Lopez sit in lounge chairs in a recreated vacation scene complete with palm trees, LCD screens, and sounds of the ocean.  Also intriguing was Tim Youd’s “re-typing” of Henry Miller’s novel Tropic of Capricorn on a single sheet of paper, using the same 1930’s typewriter that Miller used.

The popular outdoor market Hester Street Fair provided the food at PULSE, with a different menu each day from favorite New York food vendors.

The PULSE after party at Mister H in the Mondrian SoHo was also not to be missed, with a DJ set by John P. Dessereau from 9-11pm on Friday May 10th.

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3. Jeff Koons: Openings May 8 & 9

Hailed as “the most successful American artist since Andy Warhol” on the cover of New York Magazine last week, Jeff Koons is getting maximum exposure with concurrent major shows at the Chelsea locations of two of the world’s top galleries, David Zwirner and Gagosian (totalling about 46,000 square feet of exhibition space, according to Art+Auction).  Both shows, which are open through June 29th, incorporated many of Koons’ monumental sculptures, including several of his Inflatables, from shiny reflective gazing ball, balloon animals and classical Greek sculptures to a life-size Hulk carting a wheelbarrow full of live flowers.

Getting a head start on Frieze weekend, Gazing Ball opened last Wednesday night, May 8th, at David Zwirner on West 19th Street, amidst the rumors that some works that were literally straight out of Koons’ studio and barely finished on time.  A couple of blocks away, lines formed outside Gagosian Gallery on Thursday evening, May 9th, to see Jeff Koons: New Painting and Sculpture.  Many art world celebs were in attendance, including Larry Gagosian himself, Koons as well as fellow artist Richard Prince (known for his oversize hyperreal portraits of stars like Lindsay Lohan, Adrianna Lima and Sasha Grey).  An unexpected appearance by a young performance artist named Dylan Hall stole the limelight from the contemporary master when people realized that she was stark naked (except for a pair of red Tom’s shoes) beneath a layer of brightly colored opaque body paint.

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4. PooL Art Fair: May 10-12

The opening of PooL Art Fair may be the strangest and most unique art experience my friends and I have ever had.  Located at the Flatiron Hotel, the trendy two-tier lobby hosted a live band for the event.  After ascending the spiral staircase wrapped around a fish tank, we grabbed drinks at the bar and took the elevator up to floors 3-6 of the hotel, where the fair was taking place, not knowing what to expect.

At most fairs, established galleries rent out booths (for upwards of $10,000) and display work by the artists on their roster.  PooL is an advocate for artists without gallery representation, meaning that artists came on their own to the fair to represent and sell their own work.

As a much cheaper alternative to traditional fair booths, each artist at PooL rented a room in the hotel for the weekend, and transformed it into their own personal display space.  This resulted in some awkward encounters, when the small rooms got too crowded with visitors to move around, or worse, when a room was empty save for the artist perched on the hotel bed hoping to make a sale.

Artworks were displayed in every way imaginable, whether laid out on the bed, propped on the dressers, or even hung from the shower curtain rods and over the toilets in the bathrooms.  Taking full advantage of the room, the most successful work was a participatory installation by Noa Leshem-Gradus that permitted only a few people to enter the room at a time.  Set against the far wall of the room, a vanity with an oval mirror (reminiscent of the Wicked Queen’s in Snow White) was set up.  Viewer were given instructions to sit in front of the misty mirror, in which their profile appeared from the side, disorienting yet appealing to see oneself from a new angle (a hidden camera in the room was linked to the mirror’s display screen).

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5. NADA Art Fair: May 10-12

Founded in 2002, New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) is a non-profit organization which in 2012-2013 has so far hosted fairs in NYC, Hudson, Miami, and Cologne.  The non-profit model makes NADA’s fairs somewhat unique.  The focus is on emerging artists and galleries, creating a youthful, energetic environment and a great spot for discovering new and relatively inexpensive art.

NADA New York relocated this year to Basketball City, an athletic arena at 299 South Street on the East River.  Though somewhat off the beaten path (deep in the Lower East Side), the warehouse-sized building provided a much more spacious venue than last year’s fair.

Highlights of the fair included several large-scale sculptures such as the surreal Roof Cuts by David Brooks (courtesy of American Contemporary) consisting of severed fragments of roofs that were suspended from the ceiling about four feet from the ground (an homage to Gordon Matta-Clark).  Another feature was the series of dance programs including people in silver mosaic bodysuits that enjoyed posing for the camera (one of which I thought was a statue until she started walking…)

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6.  Swann’s Art Fair Hangover Party: May 14

Swann Auction Galleries cleverly billed their Tuesday night auction preview party as “a little hair of the dog of the fine art variety” after the madness of fair weekend ended.  A low-key but fun event serving delicious grapefruit basil cocktails, guests were able to mingle while previewing many of the works in Swann’s Contemporary Sale on May 16th, featuring works on paper by modern and contemporary masters including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Christo and Jean-Claude, Sam Francis, Richard Diebenkorn, Adolph Gottlieb, Francis Bacon, and Willem de Kooning.  The auction house is located on 25th Street and Park Avenue South.

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