I won’t bother you with talk about how obscenely decadent and out of touch the Frieze art fair is. It’s all been said already. It is what it is: a trade show for the blue-chip galleries, their wealthy clients, a few curious people, and many wannabes.
But it’s not me who needs this reminder. It’s Frieze New York itself. This year’s edition, the second at the Shed in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, is striking a righteous pose with exhibits addressing nuclear proliferation, climate change, reproductive rights, and more. The placement of these projects in an exhibition like Frieze voids them of meaning and impact. Be honest, Frieze: You’re not here to help the dispossessed, not with ticket prices ranging between $65 and $215. If anything, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.
For example, A.I.R. Gallery presented a work by the artist collective How To Perform an Abortion in response to the Supreme Court’s leaked plan to overturn Roe v. Wade. The artists pinned traditional herbs used for contraception and abortion onto a map of the United States to mark states with “trigger laws,” which are abortion bans designed to go into effect if Roe is overturned. The work itself, titled “Trigger Planting” (2022), is strong. It’s just displayed in the wrong place.
And this is artist Pedro Reyes’s “Zero Nukes” project:
But there’s some really good work this year, like Latifa Echakhch’s concrete-laced paintings at Pace Gallery’s booth, featuring scenes from her life during the COVID-19 lockdown in Switzerland (the Moroccan-born artist is currently representing Switzerland at the Venice Beinnale.)
At Tina Kim Gallery’s booth, an enchanting quilt by Filipino American painter Pacita Abad (1946–2004). “I visited Papua New Guinea many years ago and I noticed there were women who were crying because they were raped, but they didn’t think it was a crime, more like a tribal warfare,” Abad once wrote about the work. “I came back and found out about all the other women who were abused and beaten. I tried to use the materials that I found in Goroka.”
James Cohan gallery presented abstract works by Eamon Ore-Giron, of whom I’m a fan:
I also liked this work by New York-based artist Trisha Baga, depicting a reflection of her window and living room through her computer screen.
At Frieze, I discovered that Lebanese artist Walid Raad is involved in an NFT platform called Artwrld and that he had made this digital work of spinning birthday cakes for autocratic leaders and other disagreeable politicians. The work is presented by Galerie Sfeir-Semler.
But I was more into this painting by Mounira Al Solh at the same booth:
Now to the gimmicks section, courtesy of Gagosian. In front of a group of paintings by German artist Albert Oehlen stood a vending machine offering (with coins provided by the gallery) “Kafftee” (or “Cofftea”), a coffee and tea blend packaged in branded bottles. The hyper-caffeinated beverage was developed by the artist in collaboration with the Munich-based soft drinks company Aqua Monaco. I made the mistake of trying it. It tasted horrendous and gave me a terrible headache.
Oehlen’s art wasn’t that great either:
Were you waiting for Instagram-ready art? Here it is:
In a previous version of this article, I wrote “I suspect that the Zwirner gallery staff also had Instagram in mind when they designed this booth for Carol Bove’s sculptures.” But later Bove corrected me in an email, saying that she herself designed the booth. I’m not saying it looks bad. It certainly stood out as one of the best-looking booths. But it definitely was a perfect selfie backdrop.
You see what I mean?
Here are some more photos from the fair:
Editor’s Note, 5/23/2022, 10:30AM EDT: This article has been updated with a factual correction on the design of David Zwirner gallery’s booth.
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