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The Art Fair, A Place to Learn: Eazel Visits Frieze NY 2018
Patrick Rolandelli | May 11, 2018
Earlier this month Eazel visited the seventh edition of Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, boldly disregarding rumors of fairgoers driven away by an unexpected heatwave. Having secured an interview with Loring Randolph—Frieze’s new Artistic Director of the Americas—we were keen on getting firsthand insight into what the art fair model has been up to as of late.
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Entering into the foyer of the fair tent it felt like a beaming day in August—the staff reassuring us the space ahead was indeed air-conditioned. We heard droning voices in the background as we approached, getting a vague sense the experience would be both different and familiar.
The voices, we learned, were part of a commission by Alfredo Jaar consisting of a series of recorded messages broadcasted over the fair tannoy by artists and writers speaking to the water crisis in the United States—part of Assembly, the new live program for Frieze NY curated by Adrienne Edwards for galleries to present performance-, sound-, and time- based works.
With so much angst coursing throughout the world these days it was hardly surprising to encounter bold statements—Adam Pendleton’s ominous Black Dada Flag (Black Lives Matter) having greeted us at the southeastern tip of the island historically known as 'Negro Point' (now Scylla Point) as we arrived via ferry, and Lara Schnitger’s processional Suffragette City channeling the history of feminism, protest, and dress code as it would cross our path throughout the day.
With David Zwirner’s radical suggestion still resonating throughout the art world that mega galleries should subsidize the cost of booths for smaller galleries at art fairs, it’s worth calling attention to this year’s Frame section curated for the first time by Andrew Bonacina (The Hepworth, Wakefield) and Laura McLean-Ferris (Swiss Institute, New York).
Featuring select new media artworks Frame seemed to hint at a shifting business case for today’s galleries. And based on Pace’s success with David Hockney’s colorful—and reasonably priced—iPad works making sales each day of the fair, it would seem the emerging generation of collectors is revealing itself to consist of less ostentatious art fair shoppers.
But enough about what we think, let’s proceed to that chat with Loring and get her thoughts on what all of this could mean.
Eazel: Loring, thanks so much for making the time. Perhaps you can start us off by speaking to what you believe the Frieze brand means to the art world at large, as well as what aspect of this year’s edition excites you the most.
Loring Randolph (LR): Sure. Frieze is artist-focused with the aim of creating a global platform for contemporary art. As the fair was born from a magazine there’s a critical and editorial approach to the design of our experiences. We also aim to foster a sense of community among contemporary artists and curators—as well as to extend opportunities to undiscovered artists.
As far as what excites me the most about this year’s edition, I'm thrilled to introduce LIVE into the program—a platform for performance and installation work with this inaugural edition curated by Adrienne Edwards, who comes to us from the Whitney Museum of American Art. We’ve also launched the Frieze Artist Award—an open call to the international community of emerging artists to create a major site-specific work here at the fair. Kapwani Kiwanga was chosen as the inaugural winner and if you haven’t already, you should go see Shady, the interactive outdoor installation she has realized.
Eazel: In your role as Frieze’s artistic director of the Americas what do you feel responsible for preserving and what do you feel responsible for developing?
LR: As the fair was born from a magazine, I’d say I feel most responsible for maintaining the critical, editorial theme that the connection to the magazine engenders. As far as what I feel responsible for developing, I’d say it’s the overarching model of the fair and how it serves the art world—how I can work with middle market galleries in particular to evolve their approach to meeting the demand of visitors for new and compelling experiences each year.
Eazel: In developing the program and layout of Frieze, how do you think about differentiating the experience of the fair from that of the many other art fairs that are out there?
LR: Frieze has a curatorial focus and we make the model work for galleries. As you may know, the cost of participating in the fair is not the same for every gallery, and we make it a point to create an inclusive program that covers the full spectrum of galleries, reflecting the art world as it exists today. I believe that through our open call to artists with the Frieze Artist Award, our Focus and Frame sections, and more generally our commitment to both curated programming and boundary-pushing practices, we offer something different from other fairs.
Eazel: In light of the cynicism around this idea of the art fair as destination rather than as platform serving the business case of participating galleries, how do you think the art fair model needs to evolve?
LR: I think that people have become desensitized to the art fair experience over the past couple of years and that the bar is set higher each year for organizers to create memorable experiences. Regardless, the art world has a way of converging on host cities during art fair season. In the case of Frieze, everybody is in New York right now! This gives the artists that galleries are showing a truly global platform—and tremendous opportunities to be recognized. So to answer your question, I’d say it’s the galleries that need to evolve and that the role that fairs like Frieze play is in continuing to create a program that accurately reflects the dialogue between the artists they show and the public.
Eazel: As art fairs would seem to serve the dual function of marketing platforms for galleries as well as public platforms for art appreciation, do you believe they are making the case for their place in the art world?
LR: Speaking to our model I’d say that by focusing on artists and curators the fair can serve as a reflection of the art world as it exists today, and indirectly—as we discussed earlier—of what’s happening in society. I have a pragmatic view of how these events work and I believe that by creating an inclusive program like the one that Frieze offers the art world and the general public, art fairs have the potential to be as relevant as other institutions of the art world, as well as great places to learn.
Eazel: How do you view art fairs like Frieze as a means of educating a younger demographic about the contemporary art world?
LR: While I won’t claim to understand millennials or their practice of conveying personal identities through sharing their interests online, I do appreciate their growing curiosity about the art world. As far as young art collectors are concerned I believe Frieze is doing its part to educate and create a dialogue between the art world and the public by offering guided tours that unpack the finer points of what is entailed in acquiring contemporary art.
Eazel: Loring, thank you again for sitting down with us. In closing, perhaps you could speak to how you view the connection between the public’s increasing engagement with art online and the rising popularity of art fairs?
LR: I think art by its very nature is meant to engage and that the easier that the Internet makes it for people to share the experience of art with each other the more attention it will receive online. Still, there’s nothing like seeing art in-person and up close. When it comes to the current state of the contemporary art world I believe fairs like Frieze offer a unique real world snapshot that the public won’t find anywhere else.
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