An hour into the frenzied Frieze New York VIP preview this morning, one booth had caught Leonardo DiCaprio’s eye. “Jonathan Horowitz at Gavin Brown’s,” he said, clad in his signature incognito ensemble, famous face hidden beneath bushy beard, sunglasses and a newsboy cap. “It’s a honeycomb of dots people are painting,” he said. “I thought that was really cool.”
While the actor resisted the urge to pick up a brush, dozens of other fairgoers had succumbed. The walls of the Gavin Brown booth were filling up fast with square white canvases, each containing a central black circle. An eclectic crowd ranging from children to the cane-dependent were painting away at three long tables, while gallery employees doled out fresh canvases, attended to spills and propped the finished paintings up for participants to photograph their minimalist masterpieces. The results are being sold in groups of 100, each priced at $100,000. Horowitz exhibited 402 such dots last summer at Karma. (Organizers have asked us to note that only children older than 12 may participate.)
“That was really stressful!” said one blonde woman breathlessly, rushing up to Brown. “I felt so judged by it.” She seemed, ultimately, proud of her efforts. “Mine’s got a lot of personality,” she told the dealer.
Just then a thickly accented woman came up and asked Brown, “Why is everyone making a dot?”
“Why is everyone making a dot?” he repeated. She nodded. “Because that is what the artist wants,” he replied while wandering off.
The focus at the tables was intense as participants applied their first strokes, dabbed at empty patches and cleaned up rough edges—something of a zen exercise as commerce raged around them. Most of them described the process as “really hard.” Hard? Painting a dot?
“It’s very challenging because I’m very spatially challenged,” said Diane Solway, the arts and culture director at W Magazine. “But it’s fun and very soothing too.” It may also be the only art fair activity that could be described that way.