In the midst of setting up her booth at the Frieze Art Fair, Los Angeles dealer Susanne Vielmetter was presented with a last-minute problem. One of the artists she's showing, Andrea Bowers, disagreed with the fair's decision to hire non-union workers (an issue that plagued the fair last year as well). Two days before Frieze's preview, which is this Thursday, May 9, Bowers had decided to display a pamphlet and a written statement calling out Frieze's anti-union labor practices. When she spoke to A.i.A. on the phone, Vielmetter was in the process of drafting an e-mail to Amanda Sharp, co-organizer (with Matthew Slotover) of the fair, to inform her of Bowers's plans.
"It's a free country," Vielmetter told A.i.A. "My most important role is as a representative of the artist." In addition to Bowers's impromptu pamphlet, the gallery is exhibiting two of her large drawings on found cardboard (the material references homemade signs held by protesters), as well as a suite of 10 new paintings by Nicole Eisenman and landscape paintings with psychological undertones by Whitney Bedford.
Despite her potential conflict with the fair's organizers, Vielmetter echoed what many dealers had to say about Frieze's pleasant, outdoorsy setting and airy, light-filled exhibition space: "It's the most visually stunning fair in the world and the quality of the galleries really is extraordinary."
Nearly 200 international galleries will show at Frieze's second annual New York outing (May 10-13). Like last year, the tent, designed by New York firm SO - IL architects, is one of the biggest draws for both dealers and art enthusiasts trekking out to Randall's Island. Frieze is divided into three sections: the main area has 139 exhibitors; Focus, which highlights projects and artworks made specifically for the fair, has 30; and Frame, featuring solo presentations by emerging galleries, has 24.
According to several dealers who spoke with A.i.A. off the record, booth prices in the main section run from about $30,000 for 430 square feet to $90,000 for 1,290 square feet. The costs for the subsections are approximately $9,000 for a 270-square-foot spot in Frame and $20,000 for 350 square feet in Focus.
In addition to the galleries exhibiting in the quarter-mile-long tent, Sharp and Slotover have, like last year, organized a range of programming. "I almost see them as curators, not just art-fair directors," said David Maupin, of New York's Lehmann Maupin, who is showing Do Ho Suh and Teresita Fernandez in his gallery's booth. There's a sound art component, specially commissioned installations in and around the tent, a sculpture park on the waterfront, and a series of debates, panel discussions and lectures.
The most talked-about project is a re-creation of and tribute to FOOD, the short-lived SoHo restaurant run by artists Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard and Carol Gooden in the early '70s. Both Girouard and Gooden will participate (roasting a pig and making soup, respectively); also on hand as artist-chefs will be Matthew Day Jackson (wartime food) and Jonathan Horowitz (vegan cuisine).
Frieze's presence in New York has, again, attracted a range of smaller satellite art fairs in Manhattan. NADA (New Art Dealers Association) will set up shop at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side (May 10-12). Pulse returns to the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street (May 9-12). And PooL will take over the Flatiron Hotel on West 26th Street (May 10-12). Two fairs that jumped on the Frieze bandwagon last year—Red Dot and Verge—have decided not to return.
Claudia Altman Siegel, of San Francisco's Altman Siegel, views art fairs in New York and abroad as particularly important. Her booth, in the Focus section, will have a solo presentation of work by Sara VanDerBeek. "Sara recently had a residency in Rome, and her new photos are depictions of women from Roman ruins in various stages of decay. They're glamorous and sexy but in the context of stone sculptures," Altman Siegel told A.i.A.
Gabrielle Giattino, of New York-based Bureau, is showing seven new paintings by Julia Rommel in Frame. In her mostly monochromatic paintings, Rommel manipulates the canvas, "dealing with the folds and staple holes that are a result of stretching and unstretching canvas." Compared to some of the smaller fairs she's participated in (Independent, Liste, NADA), Giattino finds Frieze to be more serious, with higher stakes. "Here, we're small fish, and the mood is serious business. There's more money at stake, and you can feel that."
New York's Tanya Bonakdar has a booth in the main section showing a small, pendulumlike sculpture by Sarah Sze and a painted wood bust by Mark Manders resembling unfired clay. Sze and Manders are both representing their home countries (the U.S. and the Netherlands, respectively) in this year's Venice Biennale. Also on view is new work by Tomas Saraceno, Gillian Wearing and Olafur Eliasson.
Los Angeles's David Kordansky is filling its booth with a range of work by many of the gallery's artists. Highlights include three geometric, gravity-defying recent sculptures by John Mason, who has shown in the past with better-known L.A. ceramicists Peter Voulkos and Ken Price; a mid-60s hard-edge painting by Sam Gilliam that has been in his studio for 50 years; and, according to director Stuart Krimko, a "really killer" new Jon Pestoni painting. Krimko seemed most excited about a conical Kathryn Andrews sculpture with a point so sharp it had to be hung high up on the wall to meet safety regulations.
Mehdi Chouakri, whose eponymous gallery is based in Berlin, is bringing a selection of artists he represents, including John Armleder, Sylvie Fleury, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Saâdane Afif, Charlotte Posenenske and Mathieu Mercier. The combination of Fleury's sculpture, made up of hairpins and curlers, Mercier's functional sofa and Möbius strip-like leather belts, and Feldmann's large-scale photos of his original bookshelves will give Chouakri's booth a "furniture/design kind of esthetic, like a living room," he told A.i.A. by phone.
Discussing Frieze's inaugural outing last year, Chouakri recalled that, partly due to the setting, "people were scared and wondered if it would work. Now, it feels like part of the city."