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‘This Seems to Be the New Normal’: Frieze Director Victoria Siddall on Extreme Weather, the Fair’s HVAC Issues, and Gallery Compensation

At Frieze New York last week.


Last week, ARTnews reported from the VIP preview of the Frieze New York art fair in Randall’s Island Park and the story of the day was: it was too hot. Yesterday, Artsy reported on an email Frieze sent to exhibitors promising to provide compensation in some form for the “discomfort” caused by the heat under the tent during the first two days of the fair.

Today, Frieze director Victoria Siddall addressed questions from ARTnews about the snafu over email.

“The extreme weather in New York last week overwhelmed the HVAC system,” she explained, noting that it “was designed to withstand both above and below normal temperatures for May.”

Historically, Frieze has not had to deal with this kind of heat during a fair, she added, “so we were unaware that the system was simply unable to handle these record temperatures, despite us running the AC non-stop day and night.”

Siddall told ARTnews that Frieze is still in the process of “talking to all the exhibitors to get as much feedback as possible on the fair.” She said that the decision to provide compensation in some form was made early in the fair’s run. “We made the decision early on so that we would give something to the galleries” to make up for the heat on the first two days, she said, adding that Frieze is working on the compensation details now. The plan, she indicated, “is to offer something to each gallery in the fair.”

One thing the heat seems not to have affected is attendance. Siddall said collector numbers were up from previous years during the preview days “and we had a record number of museum group visits.” (The fair added a preview day this year, running from Wednesday through Sunday instead of Thursday through Sunday.) In terms of sheer numbers, Frieze had 44,000 visitors total this year, a 25.7 percent jump from last year.

As she did in emails to exhibitors, Siddall assured ARTnews that Frieze will be working hard to prepare for new weather realities. “Apparently it was the hottest day in New York in May for 25 years, so this was far from the usual range,” she said. “We know now that we need to prepare for and adjust to more extreme weather and this will inform all our planning going forward. Unfortunately, this seems to be the new normal that we are all facing.”

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