A Fair to Remember

Coco Young sorts through the thousands of artworks on display at Frieze Fair 2017 and reports on the best booth’s from the annual Randall Island, New York City art fair.

May 22, 2017
A wonderful yearly tradition in New York is taking the ferry on a spring afternoon to the massive Frieze Fair tents on Randall’s Island that has been taking place in New York since 2012. The abundance of art can be very overwhelming as the fair features works by over one thousand of the world’s leading emerging and contemporary artists and around 200 galleries from thirty countries, such as Gavin Brown Enterprise (New York), Chantal Crousel (Paris), and The Modern Institute (Glasgow). Many booths stand out, but here are some highlights:
MANICOMIO! By Dora Budor for Frieze New York Projects 2017
For Frieze Projects 2017, the Croatian, New York City-based artist Dora Budor released three Leonardo DiCaprio look-alikes at the art fair. Each “Leo” is made up and acts as a character from one of the actor’s films: Leo as arrogant Jordan Belfort, the crooked stock broker from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013); Leo as the intriguing hunter and explorer Hugh Glass from The Revenant (2016); and Leo as the handsome imposter Frank Abagnale, Jr. from Catch Me If You Can (2002). As fair-goers stroll through the booths, they are faced with the different Leonardos who are performing scenes and reciting dialogues from their respective films.    

These pop-up scene re-enactments can happen anywhere, at any time in the fair: while Jordan Belfort makes a motivational speech and sniffs prop-cocaine out of a rolled up $100 bill, Hugh Glass walks around the fair wearing his furs and holding his walking stick, and Frank Abagnale, wearing his dashing pilot’s uniform sits down to read the newspaper. Besides DiCaprio, what each of these films have in common is that they are about people who really existed. Budor’s piece toys with the doubling of both cinematic character and actor as character, as Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably more well-known than the three notorious men he has portrayed. This performance piece by Budor points to the fiction of reality and the actors-as-myth, although Leonardo DiCaprio could easily be (and has been in the past) a Frieze New York fair goer.

Yuji Agematsu at Miguel Abreu
Yuji Agematsu, a Japanese artist who moved to New York City in the ’80s, is well known for walking the streets of downtown New York and picking up detritus that no one else usually pays attention to, such as a piece of thread, chewed bubble gum, hair, buttons, pins, matches, cigarette butts, and so on. Yuji Agematsu’s work presented at Frieze New York seems to be a continuation of a recent solo-exhibition that took place at Miguel Abreu, the sophisticated and renowned Lower East Side gallery that recently began presenting his work. Agematsu’s booth consisted of small, delicate sculptures made with the artist’s street-collected and carefully picked items. Cellophane shells (normally found wrapped around packs of cigarettes) are used as small display receptacles for Agematsu’s miniature sculpture-arrangements, which are made of even smaller scale street-found detritus and presented, in rows, all together inside a clear plastic frame. These works, made from what most of us would walk over on the street, hold poetic properties. The quaint arrangements are like visual haikus—with a wink to the Italian Arte Povera movement of the 1970s. We rarely think about what we leave behind: a cotton T-shirt might lose threads, hairs and dust gather under beds, the color of a piece of gum changes after it was chewed. The strength of Agematsu’s work rests in its reminder to the viewer that the natural world is altered by mankind. The presence of this understated work at Frieze New York is a nice palate cleanser and possible antidote to the abundance of flashy commodities present throughout the fair; Yuji Agematsu questions what we think of as being valuable.
Susan Cianciolo at Bridget Donahue

Susan Cinciolo’s immersive installation of works on paper in the Bridget Donahue booth is both vibrant and attractive. Upon walking past the booth, the viewer is invited to join the artist’s poetic and playful environment. This booth consists of an abundance of watercolors, paintings, collages, photographs, and drawings, all modest in size and mounted within antique metal frames. This presentation is a casual and homey alternative to the cold, monotonous art fair cubicle. Cianciolo, originally known as a fashion designer in the ’90s with her RUN collection, also dressed the Frieze New York booth workers—as well as the gallery owner herself, Bridget Donahue—with fun and colorful handmade smocks reminiscent of elementary school art teachers or laboratory workers. In these outfits, the workers look like creators but are also works-of-art themselves. Thus, Susan Cianciolo successfully blurs the lines between fashion, art, and design, as well as the place of the artist, as she offers a more communal and warm approach to the art fair, and to art making at-large.