Working to prepare for the first New York Frieze Art Fair has been a blend of anticipation and curiosity. To be honest I’ve never been to a Frieze Art Fair in London and to be even more honest I’m not a huge art fair advocate, but working for Frieze has provided me with an admiration for the collective effort needed to create a large-scale event. My art fair role, which has shifted from the art-admiring spectator/critical journalist to a true team player, has still left me with an impartial understanding.
Don’t get me wrong, I am eager and passionate about this fair. How could I not be after devoting five months of my time for an outcome that last for only five days? Anyone involved in this caliber of event planning needs that type of devotion, although it’s nearly impossible to visualize the product. My contribution is only a small portion in comparison to all of the logistical planning that transpires in Frieze’s main office in London. Ironically, working from New York in this new space with a smaller group has in many ways created distance, even if we are geographically closer to the main event.
It was really only until after my visit to Randall’s Island, where the fair is taking place in a snake-shaped tent designed by New York-based SO – IL Architects, that I was actually able to appreciate those five months of planning. Even though I previewed the structure when it was only three-quarters finished, physically existing in this location rather than virtually staring at the architectural renderings on a computer screen, does create a difference.
Frieze New York, exterior, April 19, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.
To most New York-centric locals, Randall’s Island might as well be upstate. Luckily for me though, an avid soccer player from age 5-13, this island was part of my childhood. In fact, the drive up to the site brought back dreaded memories of car tantrums when my parents would force me in to a Sunday game. Fortunately upon pulling up to the structure, which is notably the largest tent ever built in history, this childhood sentiment quickly faded.
No, this is not camp, but it does have a similar “get away” sensation. To my surprise the Frieze Art Fair really does look like those posters you see in the subways; perhaps this was a result of the perfectly clear April afternoon I went out there, but immediately I felt a sense of relaxation. Tranquility is not often the adjective associated with high profile art fairs but something about leaving the island of Manhattan while still catching a glimpse of its panorama provided me with a sense of relief. Although transportation to this site is fairly accessible, with a Frieze ferry that departs every 15 minutes, a shuttle bus service that takes only 20 minutes from the Upper East Side and hundreds of parking spots for drivers, in many ways once you’re out there–you are stuck on an island. Perhaps though, that sense of detachment from the outside world is the ideal way to experience an art fair.
On the FDR Drive, April 19th, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.
Still my visit did exclude the most crucial aspect of the fair--the art from the 180 participating galleries. It also excluded The Frieze New York 2012: Talks Program, panel discussions amongst some of the leading art historians and curators; The Frieze New York Sculpture Park, an outside installation of contemporary works that can even be seen from Manhattan, and the food venues (that after taste-testing I can confidently say exceeds any food I’ve ever eaten at a fair). There are other factors that contribute to the past successes of the London Frieze Art Fair such as the polished curation, sophisticated design, and dedicated set of employees. Although I am still curious as to how it will all unravel in this new location, so far it has gone beyond my expectations...
(image top right: Frieze New York, tent interior, April 19, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.)