Ask any Gothamite what comes to mind when they hear Randall’s Island, and you’ll probably get the same response: Governors Ball. But the wildly popular music festival wasn’t what people were talking about last month, when Frieze Art Fair arrived in New York City. For four straight days (May 14-17), Randall’s Island became less about the sounds of music and more about the sites of artistic brilliance. If the endless posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook weren’t enough to convince you of the resounding success of the exhibition, then take our word for it: the show was a breath of fresh fair for all.
Born in London several years ago, Frieze first came to New York in 2012 and quickly became one of the most popular art gatherings the city has to offer. Today, it boasts nearly 40,000 visitors and 200+ exhibiting galleries from over 30 different countries. Needless to say, this year’s rendition left no shortage of leading contemporary artists and artwork for all to marvel at.
In fact, several of New York’s most prominent museums—The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—had exhibitions of their own, adding even more clout to this admired event.
Younger galleries were peppered amongst these older, more established institutions, providing thoughtful juxtaposition and a trace of excitement as you rounded each corner, never knowing what type of artwork you were about to encounter.
City dwellers may have even recognized some of the artists on display based on their installations and sculptures elsewhere in the city. Lehmann Maupin Gallery, for instance, featured the work of Teresita Fernandez, whose “Fata Morgana” canopy currently adorns Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.
One of the first galleries we stopped at was Manhattan-based James Fuentes Gallery, featuring the artwork of Lonnie Holley. Holley’s idiosyncratic sculptures are composed of recycled objects gathered from abandoned lots and yards, and his scrap-metal and mixed-media arrangements provided a stark contrast to the clean white walls of the exhibiting space.
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama but now based in Atlanta, Georgia, Holley describes himself as an artist and musician. “I view art and music as Siamese twins,” he told us.
Holley never attended art school and never took any art classes. He started gathering materials to use in art at the age of five and never stopped. When we asked him what inspires his creations, he told us he tries to make art “especially for the self…especially for the mind.”
This was Holley’s first time at Frieze New York, but we doubt it will be his last. His artwork has been featured across the United States at institutions like the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. and the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. It has even been displayed at the White House.
When your legs tired and you needed a break from booth hopping, there were plenty of additional program highlights to keep you on the Island. Frieze Projects—a non-profit program of artist commissions—provided thrilling installations, sculptures and mazes that kept folks thoroughly entertained.
Artist Korakrit Arunanondchai set-up a series of massage chairs, each covered in bleached denim and placed strategically throughout the fair. Even more intriguing than that? All visitors were invited to try them out!
Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto created a 3D personality test in the form of a maze—a major draw for anyone with a passion for psychology. Visitors stepped into a small room and were given a choice between two objects or situations. Depending on which decision they made, they were lead to a second room with a different set of choices, and so on and so forth until they had escaped the labyrinth. Upon exiting, they were given their personality style based on their selections.
In addition, Frieze Talks featured keynote presentations and panel discussions lead by pioneers in the art world, and Frieze Education made it possible for local high school students to partake in various workshops over the course of the show.
Frieze New York was more than your standard gathering of art collectors and creators. It was a four-day celebration of contemporary artistic achievements and creative excellence that juxtaposed some ‘outsiders’ and self-taught artists amongst the art of other contemporary galleries and artists.