A colleague this morning bemoaned the fact that at Frieze New York, the art fair on Randall’s Island that has a preview opening today, he was going to have to pay $7 for a bagel. This was an exaggeration, but it wasn’t far off, because food is absurdly overpriced at art fairs. (A case in point: drip coffee here is $4.25.) So thankfully, there’s Sean Raspet’s booth with the Berlin gallery Société, which is offering up Soylent products and prototypes for free, at least for the time being—there’s a limited supply.
When I stopped by the Société booth earlier today, they were fully stocked with the meal-replacement drink products. Arranged like a juice bar, the Soylent display would be more at home at a trade show than an art fair, and Société staff, dressed in gray lab suits, were happily giving away bottles. Each has 20% of a day’s worth of nutrients in it, supposedly. The Soylent drinks are currently available to the general public, but an algae-derived paste, available in sacs at the booth, is an experimental prototype.
In addition to being an artist, Raspet is a flavorist for Soylent. “I kind of just wanted to do an abstract flavor for them,” he said, “and just based on that, they hired me.” I told him, after nervously sipping the drink, that the Soylent reminded me of cereal milk. “Oh, yeah, a lot of people say that,” he said. “I think that’s the number-one description. The milk associations are natural, but [they] really wanted it to be neutral, something that you can have all the time, and it’s not over-flavored or over-sweetened.”
The dystopic quality of the booth is palpable—it’s shiny, strange, and new, and also really unsettling. (It reminds me a lot of Josh Kline’s creepy juice bar, which was shown on the High Line in New York and was recently acquired by MoMA.) In a statement on a website for the booth, Raspet asks, “In an economy where most materials exist as liquids (or more abstract forms) most of the time, why aren’t artworks similarly scalable, and sub-dividable. Why isn’t art sold per litre?”
Everyone else seemed a lot less unsettled than me, however. There was a lot of giggling at the booth, and a lot of curiosity about just what the hell was going on here. “I think over the course of the fair, the fridge is really going to empty out,” Daniel Wichelhaus, the owner of the Berlin-based gallery Société, said. “We have another pallet here, to replace them, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.”