This weekend heralded the sixth edition of Frieze New York, where over 200 galleries from around the world got the chance to showcase work from 20th-century artists to modern-day masters. Sponsored again by Deutsche Bank, Frieze New York took place on Friday, May 5th to Sunday, May 7th at Randall’s Island Park, between East Harlem, Queens, and the Bronx. The space was open, fun and bright, and a little bit magical in a way that evoked child-like wonder, like so many tiny museums clustered together.

Galleries from over 30 countries and six continents were represented at the art fair, including several who presented at Frieze for the first time from Brazil, Guatemala, Japan, and Poland. And the pieces on display from the galleries continued to push the boundaries of what we consider as art: Frieze New York had everything from paintings, installations, sculpture, photography, textiles, and video to mirrors, live pigeons, and celebrity lookalikes.

“Frieze New York continues to evolve… reflecting the diverse cultural interests of our audience,” said director Victoria Siddall. She explained that “the increased presence of 20th-century art at Frieze New York will create a great context for the many contemporary galleries in the fair.”

There were three major exhibitions presented at the art fair – Spotlight, Frame, and Focus. Spotlight highlighted underrepresented 20th-century artists; Frame focused on 17 experimental new artists, and Focus sponsored 30 small international galleries to show their work at Frieze.

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The crowds gather for the opening day of Frieze New York. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze New York.

In a year that’s been so difficult politically for so many people, Frieze New York doesn’t stay out of these issues: series around the fair shed light on major issues like media bias, refugees, sexuality, and feminism. In addition to all of this, Frieze New York partnered with Americans for the Arts Action Fund in order to #SAVEtheNEA – the National Endowment for the Arts. Visitors were encouraged to sign a petition and to support AAF’s advocacy and legal efforts.

Amid all of the gallery art, Frieze commissioned seven installations through its Frieze Projects program. These installations were modern, interactive, and thoughtful pieces that investigated the theme of “seeing and being seen,” particularly in the context of the art fair – an event that is historically attended by society’s most well-heeled. According to curator Cecilia Alemani (who directed the public art program for the High Line), “there isn’t a better place than a fair to look at people and art – and to be looked at in return. This year’s projects make us aware of this dynamic, revealing the tension between exhibitionism and voyeurism.”

Galleries Report Energized Crowds and Impressive Sales

Frieze New York 2017 highlights included the tribute to 1968’s “Il Teatro delle Mostre,” which changed each fair day to include two re-stagings of original projects and two contemporary pieces, and Dora Budor’s zany MANICOMICO! (madhouse), which she called “cinematic doubling.” MANICOMICO turned out to be three Leonardo DiCaprio lookalikes who wandered, in-character, through the fair – a surreal experience indeed.

Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects was one of the galleries selected for Frame to showcase the work of Li Qing. “It’s been great. A lot of people, a lot of visitors, traffic, collectors,” said Xu. “It’s amazing that you are here alongside all the emerging and best galleries from all over the world.” Qing’s work consisted of paintings placed behind and framed within a window, painted directly onto the glass of the window itself.

Galleri Magnus Karlsson brought an all-female exhibition from Stockholm to Frieze this year. “It’s my fifth year at the fair,” Karlsson said. “We had some disasters with the storm and the rain, so there were fewer people than normal on Friday. But I think the success of the participation of this art fair is depending on what you show. The standard is quite high.” The artists range in age and in the pricing of their work, and that’s intentional: “We try to bring new artists to the fair every year, although we also have some artists that are more established. This year we present seven female artists, and they [vary] from a very young debutante that hasn’t shown in a gallery – born in 1987 – to a quite established one, born in 1962 – she has a gallery in New York. So it has a variety – also in pricing. We have artworks from $2,000 to $275,000. I think it’s nice to be able to present less expensive things in this context.”

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Artist Simone Subal’s gallery in the Focus section. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze New York.

The artists exhibited at Magnus Karlsson range in age and in the pricing of their work, and that’s intentional: “We try to bring new artists to the fair every year, although we also have some artists that are more established. This year we present seven female artists, and they [vary] from a very young debutante that hasn’t shown in a gallery – born in 1987 – to a quite established one, born in 1962 – she has a gallery in New York. So it has a variety – also in pricing. We have artworks from $2,000 to $275,000. I think it’s nice to be able to present less expensive things in this context.”

Some select galleries reported very impressive sales: Lisson Gallery sold an Anish Kapoor work listed as £1.2 Million; while David Kordansky Gallery sold out its booth of Tala Madani paintings, ranging from $22,000 to $110,000 each, to both collectors and public institutions. Hauser & Wirth placed paintings and sculptures by American artist Lorna Simpson with both museums and private collections, ranging from $150,000 to $300,000; and David Zwirner sold out of works by American sculptor Carol Bove, including four sculptures and one work on paper at prices ranging from $50,000 to $550,000. It’s apparent that the most successful galleries at the art fair this year were those that heavily invested in collector outreach prior to the fair’s opening.

Interactive Art Emerges as Desirable Collectors’ Items

The Spotlight category also proved effective at bringing lesser-known 20th-century artists to light, according to Alexandra Schoolman with New York City’s Henrique Faria Fine Art. “I was really close to this artist – he passed away in August,” she explained, referring to Argentine-American artist Jaime Davidovich. “It’s been really nice for me to be here and talk to all the different visitors. Some of them have never heard of his work, other people have known him personally and have come with stories or recognized certain pieces. It’s been really fun. What’s good about the fair is that it’s opened up his audience to lots of different people. This is actually starting to be his moment. MoMA just acquired one of his works, and the Cisneros Foundation just published a book on him.”

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Jack Shainman gallery boasted impressive sales this year. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze New York.

Jaime Davidovich transitioned from drawing and painting to using adhesive tape as his primary medium and then moved to video tape. He also created a public access avant-garde variety show called The Live! Show, which ran in Manhattan from 1979 to 1984.

A good deal of the art at Frieze was interactive – for example, “Il Teatro delle Mostre’s” Sunday recreation of Fabio Mauri’s Luna, in which guests could remove their shoes and wade, swim, and play in a dark room filled with millions of Styrofoam balls. It looked like snow, and the bits of Styrofoam could be spotted all across the fair. For the representatives of Galeria Nara Roesler – both called Antonia – this was a mixed bag.

“Overall, the public is very interested in the works because they have this participative quality, which people find appealing – they’re willing to engage in the conceptual ideas behind these works.” However, the participation behind the works shown had already taken place. “That project was done from August to September 2016,” she says, referring to Public Trust, carried out in Boston last year, in which participants record a promise which is then written on a marquee board. “It’s an artwork that needed public participation – a lot of people come and try to participate, but we can’t allow it during the fair even though that’s exactly the purpose of it.”

The variety of the pieces and the visitors and buyers at Frieze New York was enormous, and despite a few hiccups with the initial opening, the sixth iteration of this fair was a success.

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