Frieze Art Fair NY: Real art, homage or riff-off? See all three at Randall's.

A fast ride up to the bridge to Randall's Island, host to the giant Frieze tent
New York abounds with art fairs converging rather frustratingly on the same long weekend - Scope, Pulse, Frieze, NADA ... plus a bunch of outliers you read of only after they're over. It's hard for the average art nut to get to do them all justice, even when equipped with press passes and a fast folding bike.

But this year I decided to gal-up and pay the pricey $46 to attend Frieze New York, a "first tier" art fair, according to my art dealer friend. Now there are plenty of scholarly rants about this much vaunted art spectacle, dramatically sited "offshore" on Randall's Island, New York. So here's my take from first pedal stroke to the last.

A tent fit for an octomom's wedding! 
I had my first flat tire in ages, stalling my grand entrance. You NEVER find glass on the road when biking in Tokyo.

It's an easy spin on a folder up 1st Ave, with a very civilized bridge taking you to the land of luxe for a weekend: picture a giant air-conditioned tent with very fancy pop-up bathrooms - I'm talking ornate handles and turned wood and Hollywood-lit mirrors. Not to mention some decent eats, including a $15 all-you-can-eat grain bowl for hipsters, from hot new lower east side vegan place, The Fat Radish.

As to the art: this year, only a handful of the offerings blew me away. It was not like wandering with mouth agape in the modern art wing of the Armory Show or anytime the auction houses (Christies, Sotheby's, Phillips) are open to the rubbernecking 99%.

Visual puns, mundane metaphors, riff-offs, irony with a cap I and many efforts I shall cynically bucket as "Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should" abounded. Like this ...

"Just because you can doesn't mean you should." An apt title for this "work." 

In case you can't be bothered zooming, this is a wall-mounted table pierced by forks gently swaying in the breeze of an electric fan. Was it a eulogy to the buffet line on the Titanic, or the packed Manhattan restaurants that people had to suddenly flee, mid-forkful, when Hurricane Sandy hit? Maybe its sole function was to raise the hackles of the "my 6-year old with my electric drill could do that" faction. Here's another, questionable item?

A Koons/Oscar Meyer mashup?

An artist friend offered this take on my take:

I don't think your comments on the forks or weiners are out of order at all....totally justified. Both are great examples of the opposite ends of the artist who has a factory and machines and a few peeps who polish his mass produced very expensive sculptures (very little artistic input there other than a CAD operator)...and an unknown emerging conceptualist that a gallery took a chance on just for sheer neck. All a matter of taste in the end and if you are an aesthete then much of what Frieze has to offer will offend.

All right, enough of that bucket. In the "Cool idea, let me try that at home" was a set of four bicycle inner tubes pinned up in squares:

Gareth James, "" Yes, there was a 4th but it wouldn't fit in my viewfinder.

I am sure one could pen a PhD art history thesis on this about "de-inventing the wheel" and someone probably has in order to get curated through the Frieze door. Having flatted on the way here, I was already 1/4 on my way to making this a reality on my own living room wall.  And how about this, which caught my eye from across the room as only ultramarine can ...

Hayley Thompson, Digital Light Pool LXXI 2014

"Digital Light Pool LXXI 2014" was fashioned from a plastic tray from somewhere like the Container Store, then slathered with ultramarine colored paint. I confess I was drawn to it by my current obsession with the Yves Klein's IKB stamps I spotted at the Metro Show this year:

Yves Klein Going Postal ... this will set you back $25K or more. Read about it here.

In the Riff-Off bucket (which others may kindly call "homage") was a shark that channels Damien Hirst if you haven't got room for the formaldehyde-filled tank:

Shark not in formaldehyde by ... who?

"The Physical Impossibility in the Mind of Someone Living" by you-know-who
This next riff-off is really quite cool: what would happen if you put colorfield artist Morris Lewis in  a flapper dress, threw him in a blender and hit "puree?"

A flapper take on pioneering colorfield artist Morris Lewis

The real McCoy: Morris Lewis Alpha-Phi at the Met
In addition to visual irony, a lot of the spectacle of contemporary art owes itself to craft and execution -- as a canny gallerist put it, "if the art's not good, make it big and paint it black."  Call me jaded, but I earn my daily crust as an advertising copywriter - a job where you come up with these "concepts" hourly but have discard them unless you can make 'em actually sell something - so I find it all a bit "easy." Like Word Irony:

This really isn't that clever

Now in the bucket of "make it big and a s***load of effort" (think Tara Donovon - but we all love her stuff), check out this impressive needlepoint with an equally big title entitled Of what is, that is is; of what is not, that it is not 2, 2012. Everyone had their noses up pressed up against it to peer at the threadcount:
Detail of the tapestry

Goshka Macuga: Of what is, that is is; of what is not, that it is not 2, 2012

I'm assuming a computer had a digital hand in producing this massive duvet cover. Imagine if they got Andres Serrano to come along and pee on it at 15 minute intervals until it turned as yellow as Warhol's celebrity pee canvases ... 

Nick Cave's Sound Suits were eerily totemic, ritualistic and other -ic words; you could almost hear jungle drums and wailing sounds of someone being garotted by bugle beads over a boiling cauldron:

Nick Cave's Sound Suits

In lieu of his usual crowd-pleasing butterflies, spots and spin-paintings (because this is a serious, "If you have to ask the price, turn the page young man" art fair), the world's richest living artist, Damien Hirst was represented by Fear, a surgeon's shop of horrors. Noooo, not the kidney shaped dish ....

Above: Damien Hirst "Fear." I own a couple of the round bowls.
I assure you it is not at all frightening to do salad surgery in them.

(Got a thirst for more Hirst? See my Damien Hirst Spot Challenge blog - yes, I'm still wondering how on earth I convinced myself to visit 8 countries in 12 days to snag one of his screenprints).

Back to the Make it Big and ... bucket: Since it was Mother's Day, it was not surprising to see a Yoko Ono message of peace, love and understanding executed in her often-crowdsourced way - with a zillion post-it notes presumeably written by passers by:

Yoko Ono's crowdsourced Mother's Day installation

In the same bucket, here's a way to recycle a mountain of Chinese novels - make the Manhattan (or is it the Hong Kong) skyline out of them ... now what if this was done with Bibles - would the Vatican and Gideon be up in arms?

Above and below: impressive recycling of Chinese phonebooks et al at Lahmann Maupin Gallery

In the Make it Big and Barely Touch It bucket: Everyone must envy street/graphic artist Kaws, who's has gotten such fame and fortune out of simply putting a "x" sign on existing icons for eyes - that's even easier than drilling a table with 54 holes to hold forks ...

Kaws is really onto something here ... 

In the Make it Big and Irresistably Decorative bucket I'd rather have this dominating the wall of my 236 sq ft apartment, a Bridget Riley-Hallmark-gift-bow mashup ... 

Philippe Decrauzet: Untitled, 2014. Bridget Riley-Hallmark-gift-bow mashup .
And now for the Good Old Fashioned Art bucket: midst all the art-robatics, I found myself strangely drawn to comparatively "ordinary" painting and sculpture, like this George Condo:

George Condo - Tan Orgy Composition 2005

and this restfully pleasing example of Thomas Kiesewetter channeling Picasso (don't they all) ...

Above and below: Thomas Kiesewetter channeling Picasso via at 360 Mal Vorn Gallery

... and how about this comforting collage by Jens Fange (with an umlaut):

Jens Fange: The New Order, 2014

... or some pleasant abstracts even if they co-channel Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Kaz Malevich for your kitchen backsplash ...

Above and below: Alain Biltereyst, Untitled (come on Alain, sell it as feature tiles to IKEA and you'll be rrrrrich ...)

But I too am a sucker for certain visual art-robatics. One of my fave abstract artists Jeff Elrod has a knack for doing arresting things with doodles and lately, superimposing them on bokeh backgrounds:

Jeff Elrod: #InterZone 2013

Yours truly about to sucked into that big round hole

Jeff Elrod: Twilight, 2000.
I've liked Elrod ever since spotting this ultramarine number at an auction ...

A few more shots (but not many) on Chelsea Gallerista's Facebook Page 


  1. Very nice! Yes, I agree that there is too much "smart" art in that world these days. Many of us prefer transcendent to smart, myself included. Much of the Frieze was obvious, as in neo-liberal and leftist and safe, but not provocative and definitely not free-floating. I felt nothing, really. It was like being in a boring lecture.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Art Basel Miami: A first-timer's guidebook

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: It's time to collect!

A Butoh Moment @ Ceres Gallery + Ulf Puder unearthed