A Visit to the Frieze Art Fair in NYC, part II

This is the second of two posts of the Frieze Art Fair I attended on May 5th.

Certainly not a “diamond in the rough” in terms of galleries or artists, I still must note that John Chamberlain‘s sculptures at the famed Gagosian gallery were nonetheless a standout for me.

photo credit: Artsy.net

These sculptures caught my eye from afar. They are created from the remnants of automobiles, some pieces still stamped with the makers. Looking at them, one is entranced by the sinuous forms each individual piece creates, and the beauty of each sculpture as a whole. 

Photo credit: Hypebeast

Chamberlain’s artful genius is evident as he manages to make his work look singularly natural, untouched, and almost easy in a way that only comes with true expertise. And to imagine that could be said of “crushed” steel seems absurd, yet I find it rings true for me. 

At the same time, certain lines and pieces of the steel meld together to make almost human-like forms: for instance I found repetitive pieces of steel welded together that reminded me of fingers. The imagery of these half-human hands in his pieces fascinated me, as I began to see those “fingers” in different sizes showing up in many of his works: one can see some at the apex of the piece pictured at the top, for instance. In his sculptures fingers may clutch the steel, pull it back, or rest at the top of the folded, twisted metal. Always placed differently, they gave a certain humanoid aspect to each work, making me wonder if some sort of robot creature might have wanted to escape the crushed steel. 

The dynamics between the reflective, matte and white metals in this series also create tension as one’s eye shifts from what seems to be a used, recycled material to pieces of perfectly reflective steel. 

Chamberlain’s sculptures are some of the works that made me stop and think at Frieze. And those are often my favorite works. Here are some of the questions they elicited in my (always inquiring) mind: how much do they weigh? How did he source the materials? Did he go to a junkyard? Elsewhere? How exactly does he crush the metal? How does he work, adding the pieces together: is there a central ballast of sort around which he adds the steel? And where would such a piece find the perfect spot in a home? I could picture them in the center of a foyer, well-lit at the end of a long hallway… or perhaps even outside if the artist permitted it.

While I don’t have all the answers, artwork with such high level of workmanship and detail and that leaves me with questions are what I love best. I look forward to having the opportunity to see more of Chamberlain’s work. 

Visiting Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

While my art blog may be new, this blog post, borrowed from Beacon Gallery’s blog can be considered my real first personal art blog post.

Yes, I write all the others over there too… but that one went beyond marketing and into the realm of personal experience for me. Hence, I’m posting it here, as my first post. Many more to come.

This was originally published on October 27th 2017.

Last weekend I was delighted to visit Chicago’s MCA on its 50th anniversary weekend – a happy accident that meant that my visit was even more meaningful and fun than it would have been otherwise!

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Alexander Calder’s work

Wandering the galleries and taking in art from Alexander Calder (above) to Amanda Williams (below), there was something new and fascinating to see around every corner.

A highlight of my visit was hearing Larry Fields, a prominent Chicago art collector, as well as generous donor and board member of the MCA speak. He presented a few pieces that he and his wife have donated to the museum. Omar Kholeif, Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the MCA, engaged in an informal question-and-answer session with Fields. Together they discussed, amongst other topics, Glenn Ligon’s works and the concept of collecting in general. Fields said, “Collecting is a way to understand the times and world you’re living in.”Many of Fields’ comments stayed with me. He talked about how the “DNA” of any museum is its collection (true for museums and for galleries – we know who we are by what we present) and encouraged visitors to try to engage with at least one piece of artwork during each visit. He also promoted the idea of bringing children to museums. This is a good way to ensure that there is a future audience for museums – by exposing children to art and to museums when they are young.

Ed-Ruscha-MAKE-NEW-HISTORY

Field’s final thoughts were inspirational and forward-looking. Discussing the book he had held throughout the presentation – Ed Ruscha’s “Make New History” as pictured above – Fields presented the concept of “making one’s own history,” and how each of us does so every day. Fields encouraged the audience to dream big and forge ahead with our unique histories in the making… Just what we are doing at Beacon Gallery!

A Visit to the Frieze Art Fair in NYC, part I

On May 5th I had the opportunity to visit 2019’s Frieze Art Fair in New York City. This was the eighth edition of this fair, originally founded in London. While I’ve attended many art fairs over the years, this was my first time at Frieze.

An image of 2019's Frieze Art Fair in NYC.
Photo Credit: James Nova, flikr.com

Due to my family and gallery commitments, I was only able to make it on Sunday, the final day of the fair. Personally I prefer to visit a fair earlier in the week. The first few days everything feels a bit fresher somehow: the gallery owners haven’t been completely exhausted by the hordes of visitors yet, the leaflets/brochures/postcards haven’t been pawed over, and the temporary digs have yet to be tread on by thousands upon thousands of feet.

Despite visiting on the final afternoon, a day so windy that the sides of the tent shook, Frieze was a delightful experience. The show felt well-curated and there was a generous amount of high-quality art on display. Yes, like any show, there were a few things that caused me to shake my head, but I was generally impressed.

While perhaps organized-looking on the map below, the layout of the fair felt labyrinthine on the inside.

Map courtesy of Frieze.com

The fair was divided up into sections (denoted by color) with different themes.

Pieces

Works I choose to write about may not be the “Best of Frieze” But after a week, these are the works and experiences that have stuck with me the longest.

One of the most memorable areas I visited was the “Outsider Art” section entitled “The Doors of Perception” curated by Javier Téllez in collaboration with the Outsider Art Fair. This section felt like an “art fair within an art fair” to me. With towering gray walls, one entered this specific section of the show as a mouse does a maze and immediately was lost in an experience altogether different from the rest of Frieze.

Photo Credit: Outsider Art Gallery

Curated with its own specific ethos and theme, Téllez created an experience that had both a cohesive feel yet spanned a large diversity of styles. Galleries and artists work was presented differently and one couldn’t help but admire the obvious craftsmanship that went into so many of the pieces.

Photo Credit: Outsider Art Fair, Taken at Frieze 2019

Falling somewhere between folk art and art naif, outsider art shines a light on what happens when raw talent isn’t necessarily moulded to fit the mores of the traditional art world, nor inspired by the canon of art history. Click on the link to read more.

Noviadi Angkasapura, “Untitled” 2017, ballpoint pen and graphite on paper, courtesy Cavin Morris Gallery, shown at Frieze Art Fair 2019 as part of “Doors of Perception”

“Doors of Perception” focused on pieces specifically that seem to touch upon religion, mysticism, or daydream. The excellent curation by Téllez evoked a certain devotional quality in many of the pieces – whether it was the artist as a slave to his work, with an incredible amount of detail, or literal devotion such as in Guo Fengyi’s pieces (in the photograph below: the longest scroll and the one to its right) where her work were often inspired by her relationship with Qi Gong and other Eastern philosophies.

Photo Credit: Outsider Art Fair, Taken at Frieze 2019
Guo Fengyi, Courtesy of The New Yorker

Work such as Guo’s with its incredible detail and attention to color and mark making, creates a luminous piece that is both destabilizing in its rejection of traditional forms of artwork and yet attractive in its ethereal quality. Placed at the end of one of the more spacious gallery areas, it helped to anchor spaces that often felt cluttered and lacking focus, despite the fascinating art they contained.

The density of much of the artwork plus the manner in which it was hung in tight proximity meant that appreciating it all was a challenge. A bit more space between pieces would have allowed the work to breathe more easily.

Janko Domsic (1917-1983) Untitled. n.d. 12 x 16 in. ballpoint pen on paper. Courtesy of La Fabuloserie, Paris
Janko Domsic (1917-1983) Untitled. n.d. 12 x 16 in. ballpoint pen on paper. Courtesy of La Fabuloserie, Paris

Yet, as a gallery owner, of course I understand: one is only given a certain amount of square footage to display the work. These shows are expensive. I do not begrudge the ways in which things were hung, I just hope that next year Frieze will consider adding another 18 inches of width to each hallway in this area (in the sincerest of hopes that they will keep this concept/area), and that a slightly increased margin between artworks will be considered, even for those hung in groupings/salon style.

Overall Frieze was a fantastic show, and the Outsider Art was a memorable piece of it!