A 360 view of one of the Frieze’s many indoor open spaces (all photos by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge)

I love to look at art. Ever since I moved to New York, I have made a conscious effort to gradually build-up my art viewing stamina. When I first moved here, a quick trip to Chelsea would leave me overwhelmed and tired, my feet would hurt, my back would ache and my eyes would burn. Today, I am proud to report that when I have the time, I can happily go to Chelsea at 10am, stay till 6pm and have enough juice left over to go to a few openings and have a few drinks — I consider this a major accomplishment.

Virginia Overton, “Untitled (Mirrors for Randall’s Island)” (2012) (click to enlarge)

I had heard that Frieze New York was huge, but I have been to Armory and Basel Miami, so I assumed that it was just another art fair, sure there would be a lot of stuff to look at, but nothing this hardened New Yorker couldn’t handle. When I arrived, I remember being greeted by the Virginia Overton sculptures near the north entrance, they were quaint and worked well as site-specific sculptures on the land, it was a good start. The next thing I saw was the Frieze tent, it stretched into the distance but for some reason it didn’t seem that big to me at the time, I proceeded to enter the tent.

Once inside the tent I was immediately overwhelmed by the space I suddenly found myself in. I took a good five minutes of staring to take in the the sky-high ceiling and look off into the distance as the massive ribbed tent stretched into the distance in one uninterrupted corridor. I kept thinking about the space, it just completely dwarfed everything on the floor, even the massive Anish Kapoor wall sculpture at Lisson Gallery. To call Frieze NY huge is an understatement.

The long aisles of gallery booths at Frieze.

As I have already said, I have good art-viewing stamina, but after four hours of Frieze, I was completely fried, my body ached, my eyes were sore and my brain felt like mush, not unlike a bad hangover. I barely remember what I saw, who I talked to or what I thought. Most of what I can recall has to do with the towering space, the blinding white lights and the seemingly endless walk through the tent.

How much is too much, and how big is too big? When I left Frieze, I felt that a line had been crossed, Frieze was simply too much. Between the size of the space and the shear amount of art, I find it hard to imagine that anyone could escape the overwhelming weight of the fair. Did anyone else feel physically defeated by Frieze?

The 2012 New York Frieze Art Fair took place from May 4–7 at Randall’s Island Park in Manhattan.

Don Edler is a artist and occasional writer who, when not searching the world for new art to look at, he is in his studio making sculptures or reading books. Don lives and works in New York City.

One reply on “Frieze Fatigue”

  1. I wouldn’t know since I didn’t go, but you sound convincing.  Instead I went to NADA but that didn’t give me the same “physical defeat” you felt after Frieze.  Instead I felt uplifted and powered up that I could not stop thinking of a few artworks I saw.  In fact the more days passed, the more I thought of trends happening and encouraging me to find connections outside of the fair.  Maybe it was the size and scale that worked to NADA’s advantage, kinda like anti-Frieze

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