At Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, Galerie Hervé Bize’s fair booth eschewed the typical white-cube aesthetic in favor of an overload in blues and reds. A sequence of enlarged pixels, resembling an enormous scan code, patterned both the walls and floor. Upon first glance, the pattern appears repetitive, though it is actually a random distribution of squares based on the decimal numbers of pi. Blue pixels represent odd numbers, while red represents even ones. (To really hammer the point home, the wallpaper work, created between 1963 and 2016, is explicitly titled Random distribution of squares using the π number decimals, 50% odd digit blue, 50% even digit red.)
The artist responsible, François Morellet, just turned 90 last week, a gallery representative informed me. Morellet, a father of conceptually inclined geometric abstract art, was also showing metal sculptures, two-dimensional compositions, and one neon-tube light work that featured a red bar alighting randomly across various sides of a square. A hanging light sculpture (“a minimal kinetic artwork,” the representative corrected me), fashioned out of perpendicular intercrossing pieces of metal to form a sphere, dates back to 1954.
The two-dimensional compositions are selling for $35,000, while the metal kinetic works are priced at $120,000. How much is the wallpaper? The representative thought for a moment. “$80,000,” she said finally. Her partner added, jokingly, “These numbers are all randomized.”