The fifth edition of Frieze New York kicked off Wednesday morning on Randall’s Island, and while many participating galleries reported strong sales of works in the six-figure range, the prevailing sentiment was that the sales were a lot like the weather outside: a little cooler than it should be in May. As one dealer put it, it wasn’t a feeding frenzy.
“We’ve sold a lot, but there have been a lot more pre-sales than sales here,” said one dealer.
Still, collectors showed up. Hauser & Wirth had four solid cast glass oculus sculptures by Roni Horn dotting the floor of its booth, and sold two of them, for a nifty $975,000 a pop—though as of this writing it had failed to part with a big, prominent Paul McCarthy sculpture, SC Western Red River, Red (2014), which was on sale for $750,000. An installation by Pier Paolo Calzolari that was up for $1.6 million at Marianne Boesky—a tripartite work that consists of two canvases and a scalloped sculpture work—was put on reserve by a foundation. David Zwirner swiftly sold all three of the booth’s brand new large-scale paintings by Lisa Yuskavage, including one to the Long Museum in Shanghai, which will show it in July in a show of women artists (a representative for the gallery declined to discuss the prices of the work).
All six watercolors by Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin sold at prices ranging from $400,000 to $700,000. Kasmin said that the pieces were inspired by the tale of a female black panther who escaped, during the winter in 1933, from Zurich’s zoo.
Gagosian Gallery opted to dedicate its booth to its prodigal son, Damien Hirst, who just rejoined Larry Gagosian’s stable after a four-year spell away. The works chosen played like the Side A of a Hirst Greatest Hits record: sharks in formaldehyde, pill jars in medicine cabinets, drippy spin paintings, all the ’90s classics. The sharks in formaldehyde, we heard, were going for $3.75 million. When asked whether the piece had sold, or about the sales at the booth in general, Gagosian’s Ken Maxwell said, “We’re doing business, we’ve sold things in the booth.”
This little Hirstean moment at Frieze extended to White Cube, which had on offer a new spot painting by Hirst, 12 Colours with Blues (2016) for £430,000, or $625,000. Other peculiarities on view in the White Cube booth included a ragged-looking Adrien Brody with a rainbow-colored dragon embroidered on his jean jacket—the words “fancy dragon” were written above it, by way of explanation—and Michael Stipe, in a Bernie Sanders hat. Don’t stop believing, Michael Stipe!
Elsewhere, works by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm at Lehmann Maupin, which has galleries in New York and Hong Kong, sold for between €45,000 and €70,000, or $51,700 and $80,400. Five sculptures by Fred Wilson sold at prices between $25,000 and $165,000 at the solo booth presented by Pace, which has galleries in New York, London, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Palo Alto and Menlo Park in California, plus an office in Paris.
And we can confirm that the Nicole Eisenman craze is (finally) upon us. With a New Museum retrospective in tow, Eisenman’s work is commanding high prices, and three bronze sculptures by the artist, who is known best for her paintings, sold for $110,000 a piece at Anton Kern’s booth. A gallery representative stressed that this was the interesting news, despite the fact that a Jonas Wood painting had gone for somewhere between $250,000 and $275,000.
And yet: while Sean Kelly Gallery successfully offloaded works by Hugo McCloud and Antony Gormley, the most bombastic work in its booth, Idris Khan’s Overture (2015), had yet to find a home by the end of the day. It’s a massive installation that consists of seven panes of glass held together, each pane with text imprinted on it, and it’s sitting unsold at£325,000, or $473,500. Though the wall text includes the hashtag #IdrisKhan, so if enough people Instagram it—and it is eminently Instagrammable—maybe it will eventually sell.
Sales at Frieze New York continue through the weekend, and Frieze Week moves along with today’s VIP opening of NADA New York.
Correction 5/6/2016: The article has been amended to reflect the following correction: there were three large-scale paintings by Lisa Yuskavage in David Zwirner’s booth, not four, as was previously reported. The fourth was a smaller new work (Stoned, 16 5/8 x 15 3/4 inches), which also sold.