Art fairs are microcosms—abridged takes on the increasingly bloated art market and global art world. The latest such efforts are coming to New York in May, anchored by the first stateside edition of Frieze (friezenewyork.com), the huge UK expo.
Born in 2003 out of the namesake magazine—created in 1991 by Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp—Frieze sets up shop in London’s Regent’s Park every October, attracting some 65,000 visitors. Its founders decided to launch in Manhattan to fill what they perceived as a void. “New York is one of the great art cities,” Sharp says. “There seems to be a strong logic that such an active art capital should have a major fair.” She and her colleagues settled on May 4 to 7, both for the weather and to coincide with the city’s contemporary auction previews.
Frieze’s massive, serpentine tent (and the 180 galleries exhibiting therein) will be perched on Randall’s Island, between East Harlem and Astoria, Queens, along with an exhibition of newly commissioned public artworks. “The important thing was to find a really interesting site,” Sharp says. “One with an element of surprise and that wasn’t inhabited by the ghosts of events past.”
“I don’t think it’s an ideal location,” says Thea Westreich, a prominent New York art advisor. “But if the vibe is good, people will get over it and go.”
NADA, the New Art Dealers Alliance (nadaartfair.org), is similarly starting a Manhattan edition of its Miami art fair on those same days. Housed in what was once the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea, NADA should easily attract folks less willing to make the trek uptown. “We wanted to be strategic about it,” says president Nicelle Beauchene, who also runs a small gallery on the Lower East Side. “We also felt there were a lot of great younger galleries not included in Frieze that needed a platform.”
The art world is eager to see if these newcomers will attract crowds—and sales—and if Frieze and the Armory Show, a long-standing New York art fair held in March, can coexist. But, Westreich notes, the larger question is whether or not the city can continue to manage so many art fairs at all. “Fairs are increasingly difficult and expensive for galleries,” she says. “And there are only so many compelling artworks that can be made at any given time.”