Whining about art fairs is a time-honored tradition. They’re too crowded. They’re expensive. They make art look terrible. The food is bad. The food is overpriced. All of these things are true! (Except for the part about food, which at Frieze New York is really pretty wonderful.) I like to whine, too. But as I try to remind myself regularly, there are always a few pleasures to be had at any art fair—a discovery, a new work by a favorite artist, or a choice combination of pieces that just bowls you over. Sometimes all three events occur. Below, a few things that I enjoyed at Frieze, which runs through May 8.
A remarkable surprise: on view at New York's PPOW Gallery, this 1985 David Wojnarowicz installation was commissioned by Upper East Side collectors Robert Mnuchin (yes, the dealer!) and his wife Adriana for the basement of their home. Searing stuff, and a great little teaser for the Whitney's Wojnarowicz retrospective, which is on tap for 2018.
B. Wurtz, at Berlin's Galerija Gregor Podnar, is showing these fountains or fireworks explosions of slides (each one holding a male model) that hang elegantly, gingerly in the air on strings, ready to sweep you off your feet.
Galerie Nathalie Obadia, which has spaces in Paris and Brussels, has a sumptuous booth, filled with joyous color, that includes works by Martin Barré (that painting at right), Jessica Stockholder (that 2014 barnburner at left), Shirley Jaffe, Joris Van de Moortel, and Jean Dewasne. Many decades of pleasure.
Valerie Keane's wild and finely wrought cut acrylic hanging sculptures have been one of the more thrilling developments in the New York art scene of late, popping up at Bed Stuy Love Affair and Lomex. Here she shows a gang of them with Paris's High Art gallery. They're spectral, sexy sculptures, somehow caught as they burst into flames—abstract ghouls out looking for a kill.
The ever-mysterious Clearing gallery, which has one gallery in Brussels and another in Bushwick that has to be the most bizarrely slick, pro space in the neighborhood, did a wonderful thing last year when it offered a revelatory show of little-known sculptures and prints by the Scottish Pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi (of 1950s Independent Group fame). Here they offer up more prints, plus some deadpan sculptures by the young gun Marina Pinsky. What else does Clearing have up its sleeves? Well, a show of new work by Zak Kitnick at that tony Bushwick space, for one thing.
I feel the same way about Damien Hirst that I feel about Billy Corgan. They both tend to be overwrought, self-serious but also weirdly goofy, and pretty expensive. And yet, they have created some very fine things, and at certain, rare moments nothing else will do. They are defining artifacts of our times. Smashing Pumpkins concerts look pleasantly at home in gargantuan arenas, and so do Damien Hirst sculptures at big-ticket art fairs. Respect to Gagosian for going big. Art fairs are about the money. Sometimes you just want to bask in its glow.
Collectors usually get all the pampering at art fairs, so it's nice to see dealers get a little love. This is a stall in a men's bathroom that can only be used by Frieze exhibitors. (No idea how they plan to enforce this, but it's the gesture that counts.) This is especially great for certain art dealers I know who, worried about missing a client, refuse to go to the restroom during fairs, which is admirable, intense, and a little sad.
Craig F. Starr Gallery, one of Uptown Manhattan's great treasure boxes, has created an intriguing booth in which history seems to fold in and around itself itself, like a handsome little Möbius strip. It features Warhol, Pettibone doing Warhol, and Sturtevant getting up to her normal mayhem. Plus Koons is on hand, and rare Claes Oldenburgs—do not miss the 1960 ray gun pieces tucked away in back.
Adrian Piper's 1992 Decide Who You Are #21: Phantom Limbs at Dominique Lévy, which has spaces in New York, London, and Geneva. The right side begins, "IT’S FINE. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. I DIDN’T NOTICE ANYTHING WRONG. IT SEEMS FINE TO ME," and goes on to provide an exhaustive list of things one might tell a person to shut down complaints. Terrifyingly prescient right now.
Alexander Gray Associates has devoted a good hunk of its booth to the great Melvin Edwards, who turned 79 yesterday. Here's Dancing in Nigeria (1974–78). If you're in Columbus, Ohio, in the next few days do not miss his retrospective at the Columbus Museum of Art, 'Five Decades.' It's open through May 8.
Jo Baer, the queen mother of Minimal painting, gets a solo stand with Berlin's Barbara Thumm gallery that includes not only these ultra spare paintings on paper of amphorae but also...
...these stained, subtle, bodily paintings from the 1970s. It is one of the real breaths of fresh air in the crowded fair.
Court Street Grocers! They make the best sandwiches in New York City, and they are approaching their Frieze booth with absolute aplomb. They have a formidable menu on offer that includes their crowning achievement, their Italian Combo sandwich. Since I needed to be able to walk in the afternoon, I kept things a little more low-key with a Mr. Liver Onions sandwich. Very tasty.
Speaking of great solo booths, São Paulo's Baró Galeria has organized one with the Mexican-born, Brazil-based, erstwhile Fluxus maestro Felipe Ehrenberg. Lots to like here.
And another great solo! This one of the late, great Alan Shields (1944–2005) from New York's Van Doren Waxter gallery.
A wall of the amazing Nancy Shaver at New York's Derek Eller gallery. She's 70 this year, just had a star turn in 'Greater New York 2015' at MoMA PS1 and is still painfully, shockingly underrated. On the subject of Eller, he's opening his new home on the Lower East Side tomorrow, with a Peter Linde Busk show. Nancy Shaver is up next.
London's Kate McGarry gallery is showing new Patricia Treibs (at right), Jeff Keens from the early 1970s (at left—and wow) with Goshka Macuga (not pictured). Pretty classy, unexpected matchup.
A sterling three-person booth, from Night Gallery of Los Angeles, left to right its Sean Townley, Mira Dancy, and Rose Marcus—1, 2, 3.
Probably the biggest surprise of the fair for me, literally and figuratively: Judy Chicago's EU-22 Earth Birth, 1983. This beauty is 6 feet tall and 11 feet long, and it explodes off the wall while also sucking you in. It was at the booth of Salon 94, which is now showing Chicago.
Some nice little Zilia Sánchez paintings at Galerie Lelong. She's 90 this year, and her star just keeps burning brighter.
Masterpiece alert! That's Philip Guston's 1977 painting Black Coast at Hauser & Wirth—the only thing I want to look at for the next few hours.
New Sascha Braunigs at New York's Foxy Production. This is why we go to art fairs—to see the newest works, to hear the new jams. Will our favorites deliver the goods? Yes.
Stewart Uoo at Galerie Buchholz, of Berlin, Cologne, and New York. Enough said.
The superb painter Katherine Bernhardt has stuffed Canada's booth with paintings by people like Annie Pearlman, Sadie Laska, Jess Fuller, Jason Stopa, and many, many more, plus a bounty of Moroccan carpets sourced by her husband, Youssef Jdia. They're having such a ball over there that you start to feel badly for some of the elegant and austere booths at the fair.
Rochelle Goldberg at Eli Ping Frances Perkins, of New York, formerly of the Lower East Side. Looks like gross and glamorous things are growing here. Speaking of EPFP, it's opened up a new spot at 205 East 125th Street with a group show heavy on good artists: Ben Morgan-Cleveland, Alissa McKendrick, and Laura Hunt among them. Open Friday through Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m., and right off the RFK Triborough Bridge when heading to Frieze. Have a look.
New York artist Gina Beavers outdoes herself with just three works at Clifton Benevento, of Manhattan—that lip painting and two cubes, each visible side blessed with a panel, heavy with paint. It's hard to pick between the porn one and the food porn one. Pure joy.
Here's some wallpaper by John Baldessari called (Clock/Pizza - Turquoise). It's a project with Maharam and London's Serpentine Galleries. Baldessari's willingness to go really, really dumb is always admirable, but sometimes it all falls flat. Not here. Clocks! Pizzas! They're both round, they both can be divided, and they can both exhaust you. I like one, and I don't like the other one. Lots going on here.
More than a few dealers were spotted sporting bellbottoms. They’re back!
Chicago's Corbett vs. Dempsey and London's Thomas Dane are sharing a booth, and they have put together a tour de force. Right here we have got Karl Wirsum, Diane Simpson, Lari Pittman, and Joyce Pensato. There's even a bit of a new Charline von Heyl popping out right there. One would be pretty happy seeing a display like this in a museum.
Can't beat when Maureen Paley decides to hang a Wolfgang Tillmans at an art fair. This one is from 2013 and titled Amazonas—two guys about to go for (or finishing up) a swim at dusk. Doesn't really get better than that.
Brooklyn stalwart Marlow & Sons has brought glorious and beautiful pastries to the fair.
Berlin's Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler is rocking resplendent Avery Singers (including paintings on paper), this gnarly, desert island sea-punk display by Daniel Keller and Ella Plevin (perfect for Frieze New York), and Florian Auer's ghostly shirts (barely visible at right).