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Traditional to Experimental: The Frieze Art Fair


The New York City Frieze Art Fair has everything from the quirky to the usual, the traditional to the experimental, including work by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.

Photography by the author


For those who are feeling a bit empty headed and in need of stimulation, the NYC Frieze Art Fair can provide a future cure. In 2012, it was located on Randall’s Island just east of Manhattan from May 4 to 7. It was by all reports a success. Artists from the famous to not-so-famous were represented at the show.

(Left)The Standard Gallery: Oslo, Norway; (right) Hauser and Wirth: Zurich; London; New York

A blue silicon stature by Paul McCarthy (above right) entitled, “White Snow Dwarf Sleepy #4” received early notoriety. Not only was it made by an artist whose name brings to mind a member of the Beatles instead of a blue silicone sculptor, but it also sold on the first day of the fair. Art dealers Hauser and Wirth located in Zurich, London and New York represented it. The price was purportedly $950,000.

The Lisson Gallery: London and Milan

One high profile figure at the fair was Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident. The Lisson Gallery of London and Milan had three wooden structures made by him as well as some carved marble doors and a giant yellow disc (above). The latter seemed to draw the most attention as people stood in front of it to have their photo taken.

Prices varied. For example, a crayon striped white sheet of paper (below left) in the Sommer Gallery from Tel Aviv was $2,000 while an elaborate 3D fabric display (below right) from the Stevenson Gallery in South Africa was $300,000.00. This diversity meant that potentially there was something for everyone.

(Left) Sommer Gallery: Tel Aviv; (right) Stevenson Gallery: South Africa

For those who enjoy the more traditional, there was a smattering of the more standard art fare. For example, the “Gillian Wearing” framed bromide print (below left) made in 2012 was featured at the Maureen Paley Gallery from London.

(Left) Maureen Paley Gallery: London; (right) one booth at Frieze sold jewelry

The show was less than conventional and was meant to be just that. The “gold for cash” sign was apropos what we expect can be turned around. This vendor was selling jewelry and did a twist on the usual marketing ploy.

Spruth Magers Gallery: Berlin and London

The fair consisted of 170 booths. One piece of art for sale summed up this large fair for those who did not appreciate its content. It was from the Spruth Magers Gallery in Berlin and London and read, “Too Big to Fail.”

Though this might be a political comment, it applies to the Frieze Fair too. This event picked up a life of its own the four days it was in NY. It will not doubt be around for a very long time to provide stimulation for those who seek it.

Read more:

Maastricht: The Best Art Fair in the World

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