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In the aisles at Frieze New York 2017 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Now in its sixth year, Frieze New York is diversifying. Though the 2017 edition of the London-based mega-fair has all your typical trappings of a mall designed for blue chip collectors — vintage Mike Kelley from Skarstedt, new Anish Kapoor sculptures from Lisson Gallery, fresh Llyn Foulkes from Sprüth Magers, massive Nick Caves from Jack Shainman, a bounty of Carol Boves at David Zwirner, “provocative” Elmgreen & Dragset installations from Massimo De Carlo — there are also plenty of surprises. The most bizarre may be one of this year’s commissioned Frieze Projects, by the Swiss artist Dora Budor, who has hired actors resembling Leonardo DiCaprio to traipse around the tent dressed as some of the actor and collector‘s most famous characters. (Another of this year’s commissions, a dazzlingly surreal animated dream journal by Jon Rafman, is uncannily incredible for very different reasons.)

Dora Budor’s Frieze Project “MANICOMIO!” (2017) consisted of hiring actors who resemble Leonardo DiCaprio to walk around the fair dressed as his characters from Catch Me If You Can, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant

The booths themselves hold plenty of unexpected treasures, too. The most startling may be the stretch of spaces showing pre-Modern, non-Western art. Paris’s Galerie Meyer, for instance, has a stunning array of spirit boards from Papua New Guinea: traditional objects that were typically arranged in shrines in large communal houses. A little farther down the central aisle, Donald Ellis Gallery has a stunning and eclectic display of native and indigenous artifacts, including Plains Indians ledger drawings, wooden sculptures, and ritual objects from the Pacific Northwest.

Spirit boards from Papua New Guinea in the Galerie Meyer booth

A raven rattle from either the Tlingit or Tsimshian people of southeast Alaska and Northern British Columbia (c. 1870) in the Donald Ellis Gallery booth

As is often the case at such enormous fairs, the strongest booths tend to be those devoted to a single artist, and there are plenty of examples of this at Frieze, including a standout coterie of women artists. A personal favorite is Simone Subal Gallery’s presentation of works by the late Pop artist Kiki Kogelnik, whose playful and bold paintings and sculptures do not seem to have aged a day. San Francisco’s Anglim Gilbert Gallery is showcasing similarly playful but far more loosely rendered paintings by Judith Linhares. Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is also showcasing a pioneering woman artist whose work has only gained in gusto: its booth of metal and textile sculptures by Barbara Chase-Riboud is not to be missed. Nearby, Kobe-based Gallery Yamaki Fine Art is showing a spread of Kimiyo Mishima’s incredible ceramic sculptures, which she silkscreens to make them look like paper goods, including newspapers, manga comic books, packaging, and cardboard boxes.

A painting by Kiki Kogelnik in the Simone Subal Gallery booth

Judith Linhares, “Sphinx” (1990) in the Anglim Gilbert Gallery booth

Judith Linhares, “Davy Jones Locker” (1975) in the Anglim Gilbert Gallery booth

Barbara Chase-Riboud, “Matisse’s Back in Twins” (1967/1994) in the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery booth

A ceramic sculpture by Kimiyo Mishima in the Gallery Yamaki Fine Art booth

Ceramic sculptures by Kimiyo Mishima in the Gallery Yamaki Fine Art booth

Two of the standout painters of the current Whitney Biennial also have solo booths at Frieze. David Kordansky Gallery is showing a new set of Tala Madani‘s irreverent and scatological scenes, which perfectly nail the diffuse lighting effects and colors of a bleary club night. Glasgow-based gallery Mary Mary is showing three new large paintings by Aliza Nisenbaum that depict domestic scenes layered with narrative details.

A painting by Tala Madani in the David Kordansky Gallery booth

A painting by Tala Madani in the David Kordansky Gallery booth

Aliza Nisenbaum, “The History Lesson” (2017) in the Mary Mary booth

To be sure, there are standout solo booths by male artists, too. The most prominent, due to the sheer scale of his portrait paintings, may be Alfred Leslie, whose work is on view at Bruce Silverstein’s booth. His enormous triptych painting “Americans, Youngstown, Ohio” (1977–78) is an ambiguous monument to a very specific yet somehow universal time and place in modern US society. Nearby, Kayne Griffin Corcoran is showcasing the impressive and eclectic oeuvre of seminal Japanese artist Tatsuo Kawaguchi. The works on view range from colorful abstract paintings and mirrored tabletop sculptures to wall-mounted configurations of vinyl, acrylic, and resin that evoke Eva Hesse. More singular in approach is the work of the late Cuban American artist Felipe Jesus Consalvos, whose inimitable and precise collages can be found in the Fleisher/Ollman booth applied to guitars, stools, chairs, mirrors, garbage cans, and more conventional flat surfaces too. Another artist whose aesthetic evokes the single-minded labor of the stereotypical outsider artist, Étienne-Martin, is being shown by Paris’s Galerie Bernard Bouche. The sculptor’s rough-hewn and loosely figurative assemblages of plaster, wire, wood, and found materials are instantly engrossing and pulse with inner life. In Casey Kaplan’s booth, two sculptures by Kevin Beasley also possess inner life, although for much more obvious reasons: The sculptures, made from colorful dresses and kaftans coated in resin, conceal speakers that play back ambient noise from microphones hidden around the fair. Snippets of conversations and half-heard words emerge from the hoods, suggesting a ghostly presence.

Alfred Leslie, “Americans, Youngstown, Ohio” (1977–78) in the Bruce Silverstein booth

Sculptures by Tatsuo Kawaguchi in the Kayne Griffin Corcoran booth

Works by Tatsuo Kawaguchi in the Kayne Griffin Corcoran booth

Collaged instruments by Felipe Jesus Consalvos in the Fleisher/Ollman booth

Étienne-Martin, “Le bouclier” (1983) in the Galerie Bernard Bouche booth

Works by Kevin Beasley in the Casey Kaplan booth

A sculpture by Kevin Beasley in the Casey Kaplan booth

Naturally, there are plenty of worthwhile works beyond Frieze’s solo booths; you just have to sift through lots of forgettable art to find them. Or they’ll stop you in your tracks as you stroll by — such was my experience of a very large new graphite-on-paper triptych by Kara Walker, “Securing a Motherland Should Have Been Sufficient” (2016), which dominates the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. booth. The cinematic and enigmatic scene, which shows an act of either valor or betrayal, seems to reflect Walker’s increasingly fantastical interests. Another showstopper, though of a decidedly more playful sort, is Anton van Dalen’s “The Pigeon Car” (1987), which anchors PPOW Gallery’s booth devoted to members of the East Village art scene of the 1970s.

Kara Walker, “Securing a Motherland Should Have Been Sufficient” (2016) in the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. booth

Anton van Dalen, “The Pigeon Car” (1987, wood, wire, live pigeons) in the PPOW booth

In addition to the aforementioned works, Frieze is ripe for contemporary art trendspotting. Some are not particularly surprising, like a prevalence of rainbow-hued works and several appearances by the new and most recent US presidents. However, walking the aisles during Thursday’s preview, I was struck by the prevalence of two types of works: text-based art, much of it incorporating neon lights or vinyl letters applied directly to the booth walls, and artworks incorporating or consisting entirely of more or less untreated rocks. Both, it seems to me, are emblematic of the desire for a kind of permanence and site-specificity, features of contemporary art that are inherently incompatible with the nomadic and ephemeral nature of art fairs. Even so, the writing’s on the wall: This year’s Frieze New York rocks.

Lee Ufan, “Relatum” (2016) in the Lisson Gallery booth

Richard Long, “White Onyx Line” (1990) in the Cardi Gallery booth

Park Hyunki, “Untitled (TV Stone Pagoda)” (1982) in the Gallery Hyundai booth

Lee Seung-taek, “Tied Stone” (1980) in the Gallery Hyundai booth

Sculpture by Jose Dávila in the Travesía Cuatro booth

Waltercio Caldas, “Escultura para todos os materiais não transparentes” (1985) in the Galeria Raquel Arnaud booth

Julian Charrière, “Metamorphism XXXXI” (2016) in the Sean Kelly booth

Jose Dávila, “Joint Effort” (2017) in the Sean Kelly booth

Solange Pessoa, “Sem título, da série Caveiras” (2016) in the Mendes Wood DM booth

Stefan Brüggemann, “ALLOW ACTION (…)” (2017) in the Parra & Romero booth

Gerd Stern, “NO OW NOW, USCO, Two Mantras” (1966–70/2017) in the Carl Solway Gallery booth

Jack Pierson, “PRAY” (2017) in the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac booth

Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, “The Artists is Presence” (2017) in the Mendes Wood DM booth

A neon sculpture by Asuncion Molinos Gordo in the Travesía Cuatro booth

Jeppe Hein, “Please Participate” (2015) in the 303 Gallery booth

Alfredo Jaar, “Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible” (2015) in the Galerie Lelong booth

The Frieze Tent

The 2017 edition of Frieze New York continues at Randall’s Island Park (Randall’s Island, Manhattan) through May 7.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...