"I think of our fair as a discovery fair," explains Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp. For the first US edition of Frieze Art Fair, Sharp and partner Matthew Slotover have taken over Randall's Island, a sprawling piece of land at the confluence of NYC's East and Harlem rivers. What began as a London-based magazine in 1991 soon evolved into a must-see contemporary art event at Regents Park in London. Now in NYC, the massive venue is teeming with curious works from a cast of well-chosen international galleries, with new delights to be had at every booth. Nude mannequin nutcrackers, neon jokes, custom-casted busts, turntable muffs—Frieze NYC is packed with innovative art.
Criticized somewhat for taking place outside of Manhattan, Frieze is worth the free ferry ride to Randall's Island, thanks to careful consideration of the venue as a destination. The Brooklyn-based architects at SO-IL have designed a 250,000-square foot serpentine tent that encourages visitors to linger and look, building out enough space to really stop and take in the art. When you need a break, there are equally alluring NYC restaurants to choose from, like Roberta's, Fat Radish, Saint Ambroeus and The Standard Biergarten.
For New York, the fair has special significance; it's a sign of a rebounding post-recession art market. In terms of timing, Frieze comes on the heels of the recently ended Armory Show, and coincides with the NADA, Verge and Pulse art fairs happening throughout the city. Sharp has lived the past 14 years in New York, and this show is in part her response to gallery owners who have been requesting a New York version of Frieze. Of the 182 galleries showing at Frieze, 46 hail from NYC.
While media attention has hyped the fair to the point that this is now being called "Frieze Week", we went along for the art. Among the standout galleries were Alfonso Artiaco from Naples, London's Sadie Coles HQ, Sean Kelly Gallery from NYC and Paris' Galerie Perrotin. Text art, floor art and neon were all out in full force, and the sprawling collection offered endless examples of new works from the best artists around.
Frieze Art Fair runs through 7 May 2012 with free ferry service running to and from the island. For those who can't make the fair, head over to Frieze Virtual New York 2012 to browse all of the galleries, artworks and artists. Find more stellar art (and captions for the above pieces) by checking out our slideshow.