Paul McCarthy, Balloon Dog (2013) at Frieze New York. All photos by Hannah Palmer Egan.
Art Observed was on-site yesterday to document the opening preview of Frieze New York’s second-annual art fair on Randall’s Island. Despite noteworthy absences from several important blue-chip galleries at its sophomore showing, the fair still offered a healthy mix of art from across the contemporary spectrum, from larger-than-life to the predictably banal, and occasionally both at the same time. Perhaps the perfect example, visitors arriving by ferry are immediately confronted by Paul McCarthy’sBalloon Dog. It’s 80 feet tall and fire-engine red. Continuing on inside, over 180 galleries compete for attendees’ attention.
Perhaps the unequivocal highlight was Tino Sehgal’s thought-provoking performance piece at Marian Goodman. The piece features a single child (culled from a rotating cast) in a white room, channeling a quizzical Japanese Manga character Ann Lee (2011) (“Spell it however you want, it doesn’t matter,” Lee advises you early in her monologue, “I just want to be an individual…”). Lee, in exceedingly composed, even tones, poses questions to her audience in a convincing performance that toes the line between real and imaginary space and the ability of dolls, fantasies and avatars to transcend their appointed space. Lending to the intrigue is that the child-actors were seemingly democratically pulled—one man from Queens, who we caught on a bench outside the Goodman space said his granddaughter had heard about an audition, went, and landed the part. “Here’s hoping,” he said, crossing his fingers.
But on Thursday, Marian Goodman’s space was the only one alive with performance—the fair was definitely short on ephemera as most of the other heavyweight galleries (predictably) stuck to physical work: New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery showed new sculpture by Terence Koh and works by Marina Abramovic and Peter Liversidge, while Paul Kasmin’s vibrant photos by David LaChapelle drew throngs of admirers.
Cheim & Read’s selections displayed a quieter power: Bill Jensen’s The Five, the Seven (The Art of War) (2006-08) stood out without resorting to raw visual aggression, as did Daniel Fuss’s The Space Between Garden and Eve, a dark and stormy 2011 Daguerreotype of a woman lying naked on an undressed twin mattress, challenging ideas of reality and body.
Joan Mitchell’s Untitled (1992) also drew a fair number of visitors, depicting a powerful vision of slathered blue and gold on canvas. Also popular were Tom Friedman’s food sculptures at Luhrig Augustine, sculpted from Styrofoam and paint with impossible precision, as well as a hearty dose of unsavoriness.
Daniel Fuss, The Space Between Garden and Eve (2011).
The fair also offered some great displays of the fine-art nude; Team Gallery showed a super-saturated series of outdoor nudes by Ryan McGinley, and David Zwirner showed a blurrily seductive set naked ladies by Thomas Ruff. A smattering of pornographic drawings and paintings kept the blood flowing elsewhere: highlights included Otto Muehl’s 1984 painting, Untitled (Payprus 55001) at Galerie Krinzinger Vienna and George Condo’s Couple in Green Chair (2007), at Spruth Magers, and whimsical photo set by Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth.
Large scale works also dominated a handful of spaces, like Alexandre a Cunha’s empty concrete mixer at CRG Gallery, Nick Van Woert’s Untitled (Figure with Branches) (2013) at Grimm, and Anna Molska’s glass-shelving sculpture featuring a penguin, at Broadway 1602. Other indoor sculptural highlights included works by Stewart Uoo (47 Canal), and Raqs Media Collective (Project 88), Jenny Holzer (Cheim & Read), Gabriel Orozco (Chantal Crousel), and Josiah McElheny (White Cube). Outside, Nick Van Woert’s Primitive (2013) hung headless as if from a noose against the East Harlem skyline, while Martha Friedman’s lapping tongues (Amygdalas, 2013—at Wallspace) taunted the flowering trees above.
Works by Anish Kapoor (Lisson Gallery), Walton Ford (Paul Kasmin), Birgit Brenner (Eigen + Art) and Farhad Moshiri (The Third Line) drew reliable crowds, while subtler works by Markus Amm (Karin Guenther) Martin Eder (Eigen + Art) and a striking black & white photo set by Zoe Leonard (Murray Guy) captivated those who stopped to take a look.
Farhad Moshiri, Top of the World (2013).
While the fair was typically overwhelming, the degree of strong work and captivating presentations are well worth the price of admission. For further confirmation, one only has to return to Marian Goodman’s exhibition, and Tino Seghall’s Ann Lee (2011) will pose the question for them: “I wonder what’s worse: to be too busy, or not busy enough? What do you think?”
Jenny Holzer at Cheim & Read.
George Condo, Couple in Green Chair (2007).