Frieze New York Welcomes Stars and Top Collectors, Sees Big Sales for L.A.-Based Galleries

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Rachel Weisz, Aziz Ansari and Jerry Hall were among those who made the trip to Randalls Island for the VIP preview of the city's eighth edition of the U.K.-based contemporary art fair.

Crowds of collectors, curators and a few Hollywood stars gathered on Randalls Island Wednesday and Thursday for VIP previews of the eighth edition of Frieze New York. The U.K.-based contemporary art fair debuted in February in Los Angeles on the Paramount lot, where it will return next Feb. 13-16 (with its own VIP previews just prior) on approximately the same scale.

Aziz Ansari was seen perusing Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored-ball installation Narcissus Garden in the stand of London gallerist Victoria Miro, while Rachel Weisz surveyed the Spotlight section of the fair devoted to rare solo presentations of 20th-century artists. Also making the rounds: Jerry Hall, John McEnroe, Michael Bloomberg, and Develop Hynes of the band Blood Orange.

Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, who was responsible for his company’s major investment in Frieze in 2016, acquired three works by New York–based photographer Ming Smith from the Jenkins Johnson Gallery, which was the recipient of this year’s Frieze Stand Prize. Though Emanuel was not in attendance, Endeavor was represented by its president, Mark Shapiro.

This year a handful of Frieze New York’s longtime exhibitors — including several who journeyed west to Frieze LA in February — have opted out. The cause could be fair fatigue or it could be that 2019 is a year for the art biennale in Venice, which opens next week and will draw many of the top gallerists that typically exhibit at Frieze New York.

Some gallerists have fled Randalls Island, however, to take their wares elsewhere in New York's five boroughs. Like many high-profile fairs, Frieze New York, open to the ticketed public Friday through Sunday, has become a magnet for satellite fairs, including since 2017 the TEFAF art fair, which began its VIP previews Thursday afternoon at the Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In contrast to Frieze, which focuses almost exclusively on contemporary fine art, TEFAF showcases art, objets and jewelry from the across the ages and is considered the toniest of all art fairs.    

Missing at Frieze this year is mainstay Marian Goodman, whose roster includes Steve McQueen (Widows), German master Gerhard Richter (subject of  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Oscar-nominated Never Look Away) and L.A.-based octogenarian John Baldessari.

Also gone for now is Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, whose first foray at Frieze New York famously involved Mark Ruffalo and a literal sausage-fest (complete with a cookout) that somehow aimed to fight fracking, the actor’s cause celebre.

Other galleries forgoing Frieze are the L.A.-based Blum & Poe, plus Matthew Marks, Pace, Almine Rech, Skarstedt, Anton Kern and Esther Schipper.

Exhibitor booths at TEFAF are much smaller and more expensive, which means that galleries must showcase artworks of a certain scale and cost. So newer (often cooler) galleries and some contemporary artworks (large scale, or with a performative or risky aspect) don’t work at TEFAF

One example of what could only happen at Frieze is the site-specific commission from Frieze Artist Award winner Lauren Halsey, a native Angeleno who was an artist-in-residence at L.A.'s MOCA last year and is represented by L.A. gallerist David Kordansky. Her piece is dedicated to the recently slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, whom Halsey knew growing up. The artwork features two 12-foot high columns with hieroglyphic-style carvings referencing his lyrics and related psychographic cultural iconography.

Also not possible at an event like TEFAF would be the mayhem that made up the New York-based P.P.O.W. Gallery’s presentation. Its space was chock-a-block with paintings being made on the spot as an endurance performance piece by artist Steve Keene — known for his graphic design and collaborations with bands like Pavement. He sketched with his paintbrush pop culture figures (including musicians Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Human League) and amusing bon mots on bits and pieces of raw-edged plywood. Meanwhile, fairgoers risked splinters to rummage through boxes of his colorful works, popping $10, $20 or $50 for each pick into a similarly rough wooden box.

Notable curators and collectors who made the trip to Randalls Island included Debra and Dennis Scholl (producer of Netflix’s new film The Last Resort); Heidi Zuckerman, director of the Aspen Art Museum; and Miami-based collectors Mera and Don Rubell.

Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak was on site to shepherd along two purchases for her institution, both from L.A.-based galleries: when no softness came (2019), a tapestry by Diedrick Brackens, from the gallery Various Small Fires, and 13 International Dogs (2019), by Gala Porras-Kim, from Commonwealth and Council. Both purchases were supported by a special fund from Lifewtr, a Frieze sponsor.

Among other galleries familiar to Angelenos, Hannah Hoffman reported nearly selling out her solo show of large-scale paintings from Haitian-American artist Andy Robert, priced between $20,000 to $60,000; Kayne Griffin Corcoran sold a Mary Corse painting for $300,000; and Hauser & Wirth sold an array of Jenny Holzer’s new series of redaction paintings, many of which were based on the Mueller Report, at prices ranging from $175,000 to $300,000.

A video related to the O.J. Simpson criminal trial sold for approximately $70,000 from Haines Gallery of San Francisco. The work is by artist Koto Ezawa who is featured in the Whitney Biennial opening in New York later this month.

Earlier in the week a Frieze Art and Fashion Summit at Parsons New School sponsored by Matches Fashion — a top U.K.-founded brand owned by Apax — drew speakers including Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, the co-founders of Proenza Schouler, and Dapper Dan, the hip-hop fashion designer who is the subject of a forthcoming memoir and a biopic from Sony.