This is the second year in New York for the British import, Frieze Art Fair, hosted in the perfectly secluded Randall's Island Park. During a pleasant ferry ride to the fair from Manhattan's East side, online editor Natasha Stagg and I overheard a tourist instructing a friend on the phone that "anyone who is anybody takes the ferry or a private car to the fair," while the well-dressed women around him looked back towards Manhattan with perfect ambivalence. Upon arrival to the island, we were greeted by our handsome tour guide, Oliver, and the three of us began trolling the contemporary art scene. This year, Frieze comprised of 180 galleries, 55 of which are New York based. Additionally, among the blue chip booths were sections for galleries less than 10 years old, called "Focus," and a section for galleries less than 6 years old, called "Frame."
Upon entering Gavin Brown's booth, I was presented with a tableau of several toddlers stumbling amongst a pile of blankets strewn across the floor, made by the diabolical painter and gay icon Bjarne Melgaard. Attentive art mothers cautiously helped to put their small designer shoes back on, and assist them out of the installation. One woman, as she left with her son, quipped to a gallery assistant that she was going to take a blanket home, to which the assistant replied, "these blankets cost $18,000 each to fabricate."
At Marian Goodman, Tino Sehgal's "Ann Lee" attracted long lines of patient, and then perplexed viewers who were confronted by a fluorescent-lit room occupied by a rotating cast of young girls, who recited a dry and uncanny script about labor and post-human problems. Sehgal's work is a strange extrapolation from two other artists often associated with relational aesthetics, Pierre Huyghe and Phillippe Parreno who in 1999, purchased the rights to a Manga character they named, "Ann Lee." Utilized in "No Ghost, Just a Shell," Huyghe and Parreno invited other artists to use "Ann Lee" to their own ends. In this latest incarnation, the young girls who assume the "Ann Lee" identity assert their sovereignty, which they say has been granted to them by the artist, Sehgal.
In the emerging "Frame" section, Carlos Ishikawa exhibited a solo installation by the London-based artist Steve Bishop. Bishop's work incorporated the structure of the booth itself, choosing to finish a wall with cellophane, so that it's internal structure of 2'x4's was rendered visible. Lying on the internal braces of the wall were small emptied canisters of laughing gas. (Presumably, the gas remained trapped behind the plastic.) The scent of a familiar, antiseptic sweetness arose upon entering this airy booth, because in the middle of the floor lay a shallow, rectilinear frame filled with mouth wash. On the walls, hung in small silver frames behind glass, tie-dyed shirts were crumpled amongst the deadly liquid metal, mercury. The oddest non-sequitur in the installation had to be the cross trainer shoe conjoined and bisected by an almost identical but smaller version of itself, cut from foam by a rapid-prototype machine and placed inconspicuously adjacent to an open panel in the wall, wherein an iPhone charged. Bishop's sense of space, and the attendant bodied, or body-oriented dimension of his interventions evoked a kind of spatial hygienic, or immunological association. The works individually are almost too legible, but taken as a whole, defy easy interpretation.
Despite the gargantuan scale of the Frieze tent, and the respective density of the 180 booths within it, our spirits remained high as we strolled, almost palpably sensing the flow of global capital, our bodies receiving a dose of adrenaline as if we had consumed a sizable energy drink. To conclude our Frieze marathon we were almost randomly handed a key to the fair's secret speakeasy-style bar, a project by LA artist Liz Glynn, who was commissioned to create this site-specific work. Cleverly hidden within the uniform white booths, the unmarked bar was accessible only by a secret door with sliding panel and attendant bouncer. Guests of the fair would be given, by fair staff or PRs, a small envelope with a key and a map that revealed the bar's location. We surrendered our key to a barkeep, who retrieved a small corresponding wooden box. Once the bartender motioned Natasha and I forward, we were presented with several talismans from the box, and regaled with a nonsensical tale, as our drinks were prepared. We exited through the back of the bar, out of the tent, onto the boat, and back to the city.