Elena Soboleva (@elenasoboleva) is a New York gallerist and an art-world observer who can be spotted at openings around the city.
Airy, open and with the effortless elegance of good design, the inaugural Frieze New York opened for the VIP preview last Wednesday, living up to months of speculation and hype. Those who braved the spans of water and roundabout transportation to arrive at Randall’s Island were not disappointed and most found the complimentary ferry service and shuttle bus quite agreeable. Drawing serious collectors and curators alike, the fair was extremely well-received with a list of major sales quickly putting the dealers in the black. As the enthusiastic Maria Baibakova, of Baibakov Art Projects raved, Frieze was “so fresh, clean, and open. Too many objects to mention, but my assessment in two words is: Wow, finally!”
The design of the tent – (so ubiquitous it spawned its own twitter account @FriezeTent) navigated around the problem of hierarchies of communal space. The larger galleries were evenly distributed and anchored both ends, while the central part featured smaller spaces without feeling cluttered. The vast wall space and soaring ceilings escalated everything to scale of grandeur and made the venue ideal for exhibiting large sculptural objects, minimalist readymades and monochromatic canvases as Lisson Gallery, David Zwirner and Gagosian (respectively) demonstrated. The European rigor and open space kept the booths curatorially sound, avoiding the Miami in-your-face loudness. Though most were impressed with the space, there was a bit of nostalgia, and Paddy Johnson of Artfagcity mused that “the number of white walls at Frieze is a little overwhelming.”
The Frieze organizers deserve top marks for food, with popular establishments such as The Fat Radish, Standard Biergarten, Roberta’s Pizza and Frankies Spuntino opening up joins which ran alongside the main length of the tent. The realization that feeding sophisticated collectors two day old sushi was not satisfactory must have sunk in and one couldn’t spot boxed maki or shrink-wrapped sandwiches anywhere in sight. This obvious evolution had everyone talking, with Observer’s Andrew Russeth dedicating an article to where to eat and Artinfo’s Benjamin Sutton writing that though it was “too early to report on art sales, the food from Frankies Spuntino and The Fat Radish is selling fast!”
As for the art itself, the sales were strong with galleries such as Casey Kaplan and Andrea Rosen reporting to be nearly sold out in the first day. This was evident throughout and by the time the Vernissage rolled around many dealers were taking it easy and leaving the booths to secondary staff as they snuck off for food.
Opening day notables at the fair included collectors Don and Mera Rubell, Alberto Mugrabi, Stavros Niarchos and Andre Balazs as well as Simon de Pury, Urs Fischer, Glenn Lowry, Klaus Biesenbach, Pharrell Williams, Stefano Tonchi and Mark Ruffalo.
How Frieze will change the landscape of New York art fairs remains to be seen, with Armory and ADAA holding their ground for March 2013, but surely it has set the bar and created a major shift which must play out in the course of next year.