There’s a lot of friendliness at art fairs—catch-ups and gossip, back-slaps and handshake deals—but there’s little intimacy. At least not the kind that lets you get close to art—the long looking and engagement with an exhibit that leads to revelations about individual works. So in the sound and the fury of what is essentially a trade show, is it ever possible to discover something new?
More than a few galleries exhibiting at this year’s Frieze New York prove that it is. One can argue that the form of the art fair is inimical to the function of art—i.e. pleasure, reflection, transcendence. But the best booths here tempt visitors away from the lures of hobnobbery and Ruinart with thoughtful presentations that introduce or reintroduce us to artists and the ideas they grapple with. If, admittedly, transcendence isn’t something you’re likely to experience at the Shed—that cavernous event space adjacent to the upmarket shopping mall of Hudson Yards—there are still enlightening displays here.
And while solo presentations are the standouts here, there’s also pleasure to be found in a handful of group exhibits. Mor Charpentier’s booth is a paean to nature’s beauty and a rallying cry to protect its fragility. Daniel Otero Torres’s acrylic-on-burlap works, overlaid with palm fronds and ceramic birds, explore that delicacy in a literal mode, while Rayan Yasmineh and Bianca Bondi’screations—paintings that have pixelated blank spaces where birds should be and mixed-media sculptures that combine manmade and natural objects—worry about the way human intervention can harm vulnerable ecosystems. Tina Kimjuxtaposes textures in her display, showing brash concrete and metal pieces by Mire Lee and mixed-media work by Suki Seokyeong Kang that seem to embody both the technical and the quotidian in their use of woven grids. Finally, at Kurimanzutto, there’s a sensuality that suffuses the work of the artists on view. Nairy Baghramian’s cast aluminum seems almost supple; Geles Cabrera’ssculpted figures radiate a welcoming aura; Petrit Halilaj’s lengths of brass are tipped with delicate talons that seem ready to reach out and pinch you. True, it’s not the same intimacy you might share with art in a more traditional exhibition setting, but it still makes a connection—and for an art fair, that’s plenty welcome.