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.
Why exactly should the artists be able to use the gallery walls as a spot to voice their opinions? I assume the walls are reserved for artwork. If the opinions were presented as artwork I would be all for it, but this letter on the wall seems a bit like my old school friend posting endless Romney shit all over his Facebook believing that anyone he knows has his own political views.
There are, in fact, places for letters like this. A blog, a newspaper, graffiti, letters. The art world is not a special place where everyone agrees and everyone is allowed freedom of speech in any venue. Typing up a personal opinion, tacking it to the wall, adding a signature under it so it looks a little like conceptual document art is pretty distracting and confusing. Is it artwork or not? It’s no better than a celebrity at the Grammys using a thank you speech to talk about global warming.
Someone removed the letter and then said “sorry…” then someone put it back up. What a scandal!
Susanne Vielmetter paid for the booth, she can put up whatever she wants, including a letter by one of her artists that addresses an aspect of the fair. Of course not everyone agrees about everything in the artworld, if they did, Andrea and Susanne would have felt no need to put the letter up in the first place. The booth is not your friend’s facebook wall or the grammys, it’s a commercial space that Susanne paid to use, and she is using it as she wants. Sorry that upsets you.
Oh sorry, I didn’t know she paid good money. There isn’t any expectation to deliver then. She should have hired Sean Penn to talk to people about it.
LG Williams suggests that Andrea Bowers turn her attention from labor issues to more pressing concerns: http://bit.ly/10yiZ2s
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