Frieze NYC: A rare Tracey Emin, trippy NFTs, and arty Birkin bags

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

While the British art fair is the main event, check out our picks from New York’s must-see art week

Wednesday 18 May 2022 By    Osman Can Yerebakan

When Frieze landed on New York’s Randall’s Island back in 2012, the London art fair brought a fresh air to the city’s art scene – both metaphorically and physically. The breezy ferry rides every May from Midtown to the island nestled between Manhattan and Queens created its own social energy with art world fixtures catching up on their fair finds en route to the 250,000 sq ft tent. A large-scale public art by the likes of Paul McCarthy or Adam Pendleton over the years greeted the visitors, while inside a strong international roster of galleries stretched across the aisles. 

After cancelling its 2020 edition due to the pandemic, Frieze New York moved to another water-viewed venue, this time overlooking the Hudson River from its new home, The Shed. The Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed multipurpose art venue is the epicentre of the city’s new district Hudson Yards, with its movable roof and programming committed to merging new media with immediacy of performance. After a successful test run last May, Frieze New York is back at The Shed with 65 galleries and collateral programming focused on the city’s iconic non-profit art venues, such as Artists Space and Participant Inc.  

Boost your energy and remember FOMO is real, because Frieze is only the anchor of a range of art fairs, exhibitions, and events happening throughout the city. Time is limited and offerings are ample – for a rundown, read our highlights from the art-filled week.

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House
Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

Between the aisles
Of course, start off with the main fair itself. Stroll through the booths exhibiting ambitious solo or group representations. For some highlights, the Swiss powerhouse, Hauser & Wirth, exhibits American painter Charles Gaines’s new paintings from his ongoing series, ‘Numbers And Trees’, which pairs lush trees with the geometric harmony of the grid format. Simon Fujiwara is reserved a solo booth by Berlin’s Esther Schipper gallery. The London-born and Berlin-based artist’s recent installation at Fondazione Prada, ‘Who the Baer’, is further explored in the mixed-media installation, which veils its exploration of identity politics and social tension with its whimsical veneer.

A rare Tracey Emin
Slide through the crowd to catch Belgian gallery Xavier Hufkens’s booth dedicated to seminal women artists, such as Louise Bourgeois, Lynda Benglis, Huma Bhabha, and Alice Neel. For this presentation, Tracey Emin agreed to exhibit a rarely shown early painting from 2007, along with her 2012-dated gouaches from her studio archives for this display. Pairing a thinly painted word ‘UPSET’ with a gentle illustration of two ghostly bodies, the acrylic on canvas painting taps into Emin’s confessional language, but also veers away from her signature hand-written character. 

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House
Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

Kevin McCoy’s new NFT at LG’s OLED Lounge
Given the American artist Kevin McCoy’s 2014 ‘Quantum’ was the first artwork to be tokenised on a blockchain, LG rightfully gave its new OLED TV – which uses millions of self-lit pixels to radiate the deepest tones of black and shows infinite contrast ration – to the artist as blank canvas for his new NFT, ‘Quantum Leap: Primordial Star 3’ (2022). The artist and his wife Jennifer McCoy’s hallucinatory work of dancing colour streams and bursts fittingly takes advantage of the technology, and immerses viewers into a galactic spiral based on the life cycle of the stars. The pitch-black colour is not compromised in the presentation, either. Another NFT titled ‘Quantum Leap 3: Dark Star’ captures the stage after a star loses its colour. 

devynn emory’s invitation, Grandmother Cindy, at Artists Space

On 18 May at 7.30pm, stop by the Artists Space for Brooklyn-based artist devynn emory’s participatory performance. Known for their work centered around care-taking and healing as a form of performativity, emory invites viewers to join in their caring of Grandmother Cindy, described as ‘a medical mannequin in transition’. The artist’s work stems from the strength in vulnerability and potential in care, while prompting us to consider the white cube beyond the hygiene of an art exhibition.

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House
Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

MATCHESFASHION matches with art
British online luxury giant MATCHESFASHION joins the party with an Upper East Side townhouse dedicated to the merger of art and fashion, turning a six-storey residence into a playground for artists and designers. From Jay Ahr’s embroidered Hermès Birkin bags and Louis Vuitton holdalls to a Phaidon reading room and a Twerk ’N’ Jerk barbecue party hosted by Nari Ward and catered by Ghetto Gastro, the funhouse bustles with rooms full of engagement. 

VOLTA for discovery

Visit Basel-born art fair VOLTA at 548 West 22nd Street in Chelsea for an international roster of middle-market galleries. The fair this year provides a platform to galleries such as Anna Laudel from Istanbul, Beirut’s Nadine Fayad Art Gallery, Baha Mar Gallery from The Bahamas, Galerie Ernst Hilger from Vienna, as well as Leila Heller Gallery located just a block away from the fair. 

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House
Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

A live mural activation by Denis Meyers
During the fair’s opening celebrations on 18 May, art will still be in progress at VOLTA’s entrance. Painter Denis Meyers, who creates larger scale murals in a fashion inspired by his typographer grandfather, will create a large fresco to greet the fair goers, while his smaller scale paintings remain on view at his gallery, Galerie l’Atelier from Belgium. The mural in VOLTA will activate the fair’s opening day with a behind-the-scenes look into artists’ production.

Take the uptown train for 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, which holds fairs every year in London, Paris, Marrakech and New York goes uptown this year for an edition at Harlem’s beloved space, Harlem Parish. Artists from Africa and its diasporas deliver statements on identity, belonging, and the body throughout the 25 galleries. Among this year’s highlights are London gallery 50 Golborne, which exhibits Franco-Beninese artist King Houndekpinkou’s ceramic sculpture, Bubble Tea Doll, Accra, and London-based Gallery 1957’s presentation of sharp portraits by Amsterdam-based Ghanaian Lord Ohene. There’s also New York’s own Fridman Gallery, which dedicates its booth to Harlem-born artist Dindga McCannon’s celebratory art in fibre and painting.

Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House
Frieze New York gives start to the busy art week | Soho House

1:54’s public programming curated by Novella Ford
For a fair representing Black art at an iconic Harlem venue, collaboration with the neighbouring institutions is a given – and this year’s curatorial task to organise a series of talks is given to Novella Ford, associate director of public programs and exhibitions at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Among the in-person and online panels, catch brand strategist and The Jamaica Art Society founder Tiana Webb Evans’s discussion with artist Johanna Mirabel. They talk about her work through the lens of 20th-century French Caribbean author, philosopher, and academic Édouard Glissant’s theories about surviving cultural legacies in an ever-shifting global landscape.  

Illy art in 30 years
Italian espresso giant, Illy, has been collaborating with the Venice Biennale for three decades to create limited series espresso cups adorned with works by artists in the bienniale. Felipe Baeza, Precious Okoyomon, Cecilia Vicuña, Alexandra Pirici, Aki Sasamoto, and Giulia Cenci from this year’s bienniale, The Milk of Dreams, have been selected to appear on the cups by the curator, Cecilia Alemani. The display is not limited to bienniale artists and includes a host of creatives, such as Pedro Almodóvar, Yoko Ono, David Byrne, Ai Weiwei, and Marina Abramović.

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