Frieze Expands to NY Location No More Convenient Than Armory


London’s Frieze Art Fair is expanding, two-fold, and beyond UK borders. In May 2012 it will launch a New York franchise and in October 2012 a “Masters” fair to run concurrently with the popular London event, now in its 10th year. The New York fair debuts two months after the Armory Show, which has been the source of dealer disgruntlement since its takeover in 2007 by Merchandise Mart Properties. The Frieze Art Fair was established by Frieze magazine cofounders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover.

According to Sharp, in recent years dealers had occasionally asked her whether they were considering bringing the fair to New York. When they decided to pursue the idea, she called three dealers to feel out the situation and the next day received calls from journalists and, over the next few months, from numerous enthusiastic galleries. One challenge, she said, was finding a suitable venue. “We’re not convention center people,” Sharp explained, “we don’t want to battle with the ghosts of computer fairs past.”

The New York fair, to take place May 3–6, will be located on Randall’s Island, which means it will not be any easier to get to than the pier-sited Armory, though arguably more pleasant. Located in the East River between Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, Randall’s Island is well known for its psychiatric hospital and, more recently, for its sporting and concert events and playing fields. It is reachable by car, taxi, bus or ferry, and is also connected by pedestrian overpasses.

The fair will feature about 170 galleries in a tent structure designed by Brooklyn-based SO-IL architects. The selection committee for the fair will be announced in June. Several galleries contacted by A.i.A. declined to comment on their future plans and whether they would jump ship from the Armory to Frieze. The Armory, roughly the same size as Freize, will continue to benefit from taking place at the same time as the highly regarded ADAA Art Show, scheduled for Mar. 7–11, 2012.

Armory fair director Katelijne De Backer told A.i.A. that, since rumors have been circulating for years, she’s not surprised that Frieze is making this move. “It shows the importance of New York as an art capital,” she said. When asked whether Frieze will have an impact on the Armory, she hesitantly replied, “I don’t know.” Sharp said that she hasn’t thought about their fair in relation to the Armory.

In London, the new Frieze Masters seeks to give a “contemporary perspective on historical art.” It will include 70 galleries showing work made before 2000-long before 2000. On view will be antiquities, old masters and works from others eras, up through the 20th century. It will be held Oct. 11–14, 2012, at Regent’s Park, within walking distance of the main fair. Victoria Siddall, who worked at Christies, London, from 2000 to 2004, and has been Frieze’s head of development, is heading up the Masters fair. Architect Annabelle Selldorf will create the exhibition design.

Why an historical fair? Sharp recalled a long conversation with some artist friends about the varnish on a painting at the Louvre. “Artists are always looking back,” she said, “there’s a direct relationship.” As part of the event, she explained, they plan to hold talks in which artists will reflect on historical works that inspire them.

Sharpe said that a couple of years ago she and Slotover “professionalized their mom & pop shop” by creating a board and bringing in a chairman and COO, which has helped prepare them for growth.

Frieze magazine, now 20 years old, recently launched the German-English Frieze d/e in Berlin and the response, Sharp said, has been overwhelming. The inaugural summer issue already sold out.