PAUL MCCARTHYBalloon Dog, 2013.

TOM FRIEDMANUntitled (Pizza) and Untitled (Sun), 2012 and 2013, Styrofoam and paint. 

DO-HO SUHWielandstr. 18, 12159 Berlin, 2011polyester fabric

May 17 2013

Frieze Frame: Take Two

by Claire Sabel

Playful insincerity loomed over Frieze New York in the form of Paul McCarthy’s Balloon Dog sculpture, invariably the first thing visitors commented on as it managed to both dwarf the 186 galleries clustered under the sprawling white pavilion and bulge with the excess of not being by Jeff Koons. Indeed, the irony of kitsch pervaded Randall’s Island, a small landmass east of Harlem, usually visited (if visited) for a different kind of play; the island’s permanent infrastructure are mostly recreational facilities and fields. Yellow school buses released loads of fairgoers onto a makeshift platform protecting them from sinking several inches deep in mud, while other visitors disembarked from specially chartered water taxis.

Despite its unconventional destination, the second annual edition of Frieze NY built well on the successes of the first. Retaining its lofty exhibition space and robust program of lectures and events, it was designed as much for the general public as for seasoned collectors—one could even take live audio tours.

This year, food was again a focal point of the fair, with anticipation of some pop-up eateries rivaling the art on display, and Tom Friedman’s giant Styrofoam junk food occupying prime real estate along one of the pavilion’s central arteries. Where last year’s fair saw Rirkrit Tiravanija grilling up sausages, Frieze 2013 installed a temporary restaurant as part of a series of specially commissioned projects. FOOD 1971/2013 revisited the legendary SoHo establishment of Gordon Matta-Clark, bringing some of the original chefs to curate daily menus. (Those less interested in the remake can find original footage in the founders’ 1972 documentary.) Although the genteel riverside picnic tables lacked the grit and spontaneity of the original establishment, the outdoor café offered a welcome alternative to the hour-long line for pizza from Bushwick.

Caricatures of age difference flourished elsewhere. Fairgoers flocked to the event’s token performance piece, Ann Lee (2011) by Tino Sehgal, on show at the Marian Goodman Gallery. In an otherwise empty room, a young girl explained how she had transformed from a Manga character into a three-dimensional being, confounding onlookers with questions about their own perceptions of daily life. Recording the work is prohibited, and ownership of the performance is rumored to cost six figures. Like McCarthy, Sehgal was enacting something of an inside joke. French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno first bought the rights to Ann Lee from a Japanese company in 1999, then inviting other artists to develop the fictional character. 


DO-HO SUH’s Wielandstr. 18, 12159 Berlin, 2011polyester fabric.

FOOD 1971/2013, 2013.

LIU CHUANGBuying Everything On You, 2006– , found objects.

Intergenerational dialogue informed many of the curatorial decisions, including Beijing’s Boers-Li Gallery and The Third Line of Dubai. Both reported strong sales, the latter parting with an adjustable sculpture composed using the Iranian glasswork aineh-kari by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian for USD 250,000. Long March Space sold a similarly multifaceted silver sculpture, Zhan Wang’s Artificial Rock No. 71, (not to be confused for Ornamental Rock No. 71) for an undisclosed price. Jack Shainman showcased two spectacular works by the Iraqi painter Hayv Kahraman, both nude self-portraits incorporating wood paneling and medieval inflected geometries. The gallery offered that they could have sold ten times as many of her works (priced in the realm of USD 40,000).

Contemporary exhibitions in New York certainly helped Japanese artists, from the Whitney’s Yayoi Kusama retrospective in the fall to the Guggenheim’s current pairing of Gutai and Danh Vo. Kusama, unsurprisingly, sold well. The Victoria-Miro Gallery found buyers for all four of their canvases from the Infinity Net series. The other usual suspects, Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor, attracted extensive interest at Lisson. A golden concave wall sculpture by Kapoor that greeted visitors on opening day sold for over USD 760,000 and was replaced with a reflective magenta one by the end of the fair.

At the opposite end of the pavilion, London’s Kate MacGarry gallery presented the work of Renee So. Born in Hong Kong, raised in Australia, and resident of the United Kingdom, So’s combination of eclectic wool tapestries and ceramic vessels were a surprising hit. Four works sold for USD 12,500 a piece.

At the heart of the fair were galleries designated as part of the Frame section, reserved for spaces less than six years old and exhibiting the work of a single artist. Accompanied by brief artist’s biographies on thick paper, this cluster of booths enhanced Frieze’s museum-like spirit of engagement. Of the Frame exhibitors, Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects tripartite installation by Liu Chuang sat in a prime location. Chuang’s deconstruction of a Shenzhen worker’s personal affects were laid out on a low plinth, humbly horizontal against the lofty verticals of the exhibition space. Perhaps the most successful exploration of architectural mismatch was the work of Do-Ho Suh, showcased at Lehmann Maupin. Suh’s gauzy gazebo retraced his 18th century Berlin apartment, invoking his ongoing motif of displaced buildings. The installation, refreshingly elegant, brought back green space and traditional structure to the ambitious impermanence of Frieze’s turnover of taste and talent.

Claire Sabel is a writer and wanderer based in New York.