The labor headache continued apace on Randall’s Island this morning, as Susanne Vielmetter arrived at her eponymous gallery to find Andrea Bowers’s much-discussed protest letters taken down and the entrance of her cube cordoned off by a white string. “I’m shocked,” she told Hyperallergic, “I never expected this would happen.” Though she says it isn’t clear who is responsible for this action, Vielmetter was particularly dismayed as she had spoken with Frieze co-head Matthew Slotover in the run up to the fair, and he had subsequently engaged both her and Andrea Bowers in a “long conversation” assuring her of the right to display the letters and clarifying the Frieze position that they are not in a labor dispute of any kind.
“We want to have the right for our artists to express their opinions freely,” Vielmetter continued, explaining that the letters were integral in establishing that “this is not just a historical piece from a distance.” Bowers’s work also appears at Milan’s Kaufman Repetto gallery, and her letter there remained unmolested, though it is significantly less prominent, standing alongside a single, smaller work. Julia Koropoulos of Kaufman Repetto affirmed that they hadn’t heard anything from Frieze about the matter and was surprised to learn that the letters, which she says had “generated a lot of discourse,” were taken down at Susanne Vielmetter’s space.
As her director of sales, Kevin Scholl, went to print more copies of the letter, Vielmetter explained that she had received “a lot of positive feedback yesterday, though there were a few negative reactions from people who don’t like unions.” She also said she had informed Bowers of the situation, but plans to hold off on complaining to Frieze unless the situation repeats itself tomorrow. Repeated requests for comment to Frieze and their PR firm, Black Frame, were not responded to by press time (see update below).
Meanwhile, a significantly smaller labor group than yesterday — members of the Carpenters’ Union — reprised their protest by the inflatable rat positioned at the south entrance.
UPDATE (3:13 pm EST): Frieze Head of Public Relations Belinda Bowring has just sent Hyperallergic this exclusive statement on the matter:
Frieze wants to reassure you that we would never remove any works from a gallery’s booth and respect Andrea Bowers’ opinion. After investigating the issue it seems that a member of the security team mistakenly removed the statements, and we are now in conversation Susanne Vielmetter to apologize for this error. Sometimes booths are cordened off at night for the cleaning team, this is standard practice, and is in no way is related to the content of the booth. Frieze would never intentionally censor an artist’s work.
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