WHEN VIEWING THE ART OFFERED AT THE FRIEZE ART FAIR, IT'S BEST TO KEEP IN MIND THE TINY ISLAND ON WHICH YOU STAND (AND ITS MASSIVE INFLUENCE). THIS YEAR, THE PARALLELS WE CAN DRAW BETWEEN RECORD-BREAKING AUCTION SALES AND NEW MODES OF CREATION IN THE TENTS ON NEW YORK'S RANDALL'S ISLAND ARE SURREAL
This year marks the third annual New York installment of Frieze Art Fair, located on Randall’s Island, adjacent to a few large-scale psychiatric hospitals, respectively, Manhattan Psychiatric Center, and the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center. Certainly a bizarre coincidence, one cannot help but want to draw comparisons between the untamed global art market, and its various “institutions”.
This year, the fair hosted 192 different galleries, organized per usual into sections that reflect the stature and age of the gallery. Two sections, “Frame” and “Focus” were dedicated to younger galleries who presented solo, or commissioned installations, often of emerging artists.
In “Frame,” Berlin gallery Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler presented New York-based painter Avery Singer. For her installation, Singer produced three ambitiously large canvases depicting the proverbial subject of the artist, musician, and performer engaged in their respective practices. Achieved through a masterful use of airbrush on gessoed ground, the images themselves are derived from 3-D models that the artist creates first in a computer modeling program (with deliberate crudeness, reducing limbs and genitals to various, haphazardly intersecting polygons). Singer will be presenting her first solo museum show at Kunsthalle Zurich in November of this year.
In “Focus,” Los Angeles-based Night Gallery displayed a collection of highly complementary works. In the center of the booth, a large-scale sculpture by Samara Golden was composed of a baby grand piano with an assortment of objects atop, including an over-designed lamp and guitar that were entirely and meticulously covered in mother of pearl tile. The work is appropriately titled “too many teeth in my mouth”. The sculpture was originally a component of an enormous and complex installation that Golden mounted earlier this year at Night Gallery, titled “Mass Murder.”
Additionally, Frieze offered an ambitious project this year by California conceptual art legend Allen Ruppersberg, in the form of a revitalized past project, called “Al’s Grand Hotel”. Originally created in Los Angeles in 1971 for a period of six weeks, the work functioned as an actual hotel that hosted artist gatherings, parties and performances, as well as accommodations for its participants. Re-situated inside the Frieze tent, this incarnation (in collaboration with Los Angeles project space, Public Fiction) offered two guest rooms and series of other interventions. Oddly, in the context of the various gourmet restaurants, VIP lounges, and design and product pavilions, it seemed to fit perfectly well. In the age when subversive conceptual gestures mirror mainstream synthetic market strategy and vice versa, there seems to be a frictionless surface created in the ever-inflationary field of contemporary art.
Younger artists were also invited to participate in the special projects section, including Israeli born, New York-Based Naama Tsabar, who hosted an underground music festival she programmed in the bucolic outdoor setting of the island (perhaps the patients at the nearby hospitals might have enjoyed this addition). As a stage, Tsabar removed the floor form a booth inside the fair, and transported it outdoors.
As part of Frieze’s extensive and often complex platforms for fashion/design/art/architecture collaboration, The Gap and Visionaire presented the Gap Lounge, which functioned as a pavilion and café through which to retail Visionaire’s incredibly novel UV-sensitive paint in the form of commissioned T-shirts by art giants including Alex Katz, Yoko Ono, Richard Phillips, Ugo Rondinone, Peter Lindbergh, Francois Berthoud and Roe Etheridge. When exposed to sunlight, the shirts reveal the hidden color contained within the elegant lines of each artist’s design. There has been a reasonable amount of backlash toward this in the art-critical community, due to what I perceive to be an allergy to mainstream commercialization. As many have pointed out, the T-shirts are the only democratic form of art offered at the fair, as they cost significantly less than everything else.
The auction house results were posted last night on Facebook by by renowned contemporary art critic Jerry Saltz, who bemoaned the exorbitant prices on the secondary market for artists’ work he described as “ick” or “meh”. Mr. Saltz has not, in the past, been kind to what he perceives as a fashionable tendency toward tasteful abstraction in contemporary painting in the service of market appeal, so why start now? A few records were broken again in price-points for young artist auction sales at Frieze 2014. A painting by a more established artist, Wade Guyton (whose work is primarily produced by printing digital images on canvas), was estimated to sell for 2.5-3.5 million dollars. In response, Guyton took to his Instagram account to notify the world that he was busy reproducing that very work to be sold at auction in his studio. This can be interpreted in two ways: 1) He wants to sell a lot more of the same work because it is valued so highly. 2) He wants to torpedo the value of the “real” or “original” work for auction by flooding the market with exact copies.
In order to fully appreciate Frieze, one must construct a vast conspiratorial landscape that includes such contradictory dynamics. Somewhere on the frictionless surface of contemporary art, there is a seamless transition between subversion and establishment, and it is the modality of future.
images courtesy of Frieze Art Fair